Bus drivers more likely to let white customers ride for free

September 02, 2020

A new paper in The Economic Journal finds that bus drivers are more likely to let white riders ride for free and less likely to let Black riders ride without paying the fee.

Police officers must issue tickets to drivers exceeding the speed limit. A grocery store worker is not allowed to hand out goods free of charge. Similarly, bus drivers require all passengers to have valid tickets before being allowed onto the bus.

This study set out to test what happens when decisionmakers have to make unmonitored judgments. Do they voluntarily provide favours? And, if so, do they reward and accommodate some people more than others?

This study tested for discretionary favours, i.e., private accommodations, in everyday consumer transactions. In the study, the researchers hired test customers randomly assigned to board public buses where they presented a travel card with a zero monetary balance and asked the bus driver if they can have a free ride to a bus stop. While the public bus company's official rules and policies mostly discourage employees from providing a service free of monetary charge, close to two-thirds of observed bus drivers granted such favours, and predominantly to lighter-skinned people.

Based on 1,552 transactions in Queensland, Australia, the authors uncovered strong evidence of racial bias: bus drivers were twice as willing to let white testers ride free as Black testers (72% versus 36% of the time). Indian testers were accepted at 51%, while Asian testers were treated similarly to whites; being offered a free ride 73% of the time. Such racial bias against Black citizens still existed after controlling for several other variables including the bus driver's age, gender, and race. Based on the data, researchers found no evidence of own-group bias: bus drivers were just as likely to grant free rides to customers from other races as they were to customers of their own race.

The study revealed strong evidence of racial discrimination. A key feature in the field experiment is that the bus drivers had only a few seconds to decide regarding a person standing in front of them. Here the bus drivers appeared to use a customer's skin colour as a proxy for other unobservable group characteristics. The uncovered white privilege was reduced but still present when test customers wore business attire or dressed in army uniforms.

"Our findings show that white privilege extends into marketplace favours, or private accommodations, that are often hidden and unregulated," said Redzo Mujcic, one of the paper's authors. "The level of white privilege found is markedly greater than previously documented in other markets and public services, such as employment and housing, where discrimination is already illegal. As a society, we need to think about ways to eliminate such bias in daily interactions, especially given the large economic and social costs that accrue to discriminated minorities. For example, white citizens can simply refuse any such gifts in future transactions."
-end-
The paper, "The Colour of a Free Ride," is available (on September 2) at https://academic.oup.com/ej/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/ej/ueaa090.

Direct correspondence to:

Redzo Mujcic
Warwick Business School, The University of Warwick
Scarman Rd,
Coventry CV4 7AL, UNITED KINGDOM
redzo.mujcic@wbs.ac.uk

To request a copy of the study, please contact:

Daniel Luzer
daniel.luzer@oup.com

Sharing on social media? Find Oxford Journals online at @OxfordJournals

Oxford University Press USA

Related Racial Bias Articles from Brightsurf:

Racial bias worse in police killings of older, mentally ill, unarmed men
While young men still bear the brunt of police killings, a new study in the journal Annals of Epidemiology found that police are five times more likely to shoot and kill unarmed Black men over age 54 than unarmed white men the same age.

Study: Despite training, Vermont police departments still show widespread racial bias
New research conducted in Vermont shows that, while anti-bias police trainings resulted in small improvements in some police departments in the state, they did not by and large alter police behavior.

Racial and LGBT bias persists in ridesharing drivers despite mitigation efforts
Despite efforts by ridesharing companies to eliminate or reduce discrimination, research from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business finds that racial and LGBT bias persists among drivers.

Context reduces racial bias in hate speech detection algorithms
When it comes to accurately flagging hate speech on social media, context matters, says a new USC study aimed at reducing errors that could amplify racial bias.

Gender bias kept alive by people who think it's dead
Workplace gender bias is being kept alive by people who think it's no longer an issue, new research suggests.

Sex bias in pain research
Most pain research remains overwhelmingly based on the study of male rodents, continuing to test hypotheses derived from earlier experiments on males.

New research finds racial bias in rideshare platforms
New research to be published in the INFORMS journal Management Science has found popular rideshare platforms exhibit racial and other biases that penalize under-represented minorities and others seeking to use their services.

Research finds teachers just as likely to have racial bias as non-teachers
Research released today challenges the notion that teachers might be uniquely equipped to instill positive racial attitudes in children or bring about racial justice, without additional support or training from schools.

Scientists can see the bias in your brain
The strength of alpha brain waves reveals if you are about to make a biased decision, according to research recently published in JNeurosci.

A cautionary tale about measuring racial bias in policing
Racial bias and policing made headlines last year after a study examining records of fatal police shootings claimed white officers were no more likely to shoot racial minorities than nonwhite officers.

Read More: Racial Bias News and Racial Bias Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.