What is the impact of ban-the-box on housing discrimination?
Last registered on January 10, 2020

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
What is the impact of ban-the-box on housing discrimination?
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0005240
Initial registration date
January 07, 2020
Last updated
January 10, 2020 11:41 AM EST
Location(s)

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Primary Investigator
Affiliation
St. Catherine University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
University of St. Thomas
Additional Trial Information
Status
On going
Start date
2020-01-01
End date
2021-01-01
Secondary IDs
Abstract
In September 2019, the Minneapolis City Council passed a law restricting the use of background checks and credit history in rental housing applications; the new policy goes into effect in June 2020 (Evans 2019). This policy is intended to reduce barriers to housing for formerly incarcerated people and reduce discrimination against people of color in the housing application process. However, previous research has found that similar ban-the-box policies for employment applications increases discrimination against young Black and Latino men (Doleac and Hansen 2016; Agan and Starr 2017). This increase in discrimination may occur because employers have less information on the criminal records of individual job applicants, and, as a result, rely more heavily on racial stereotypes when making decisions. This leads directly to our research question: How does limiting background checks for potential tenants affect racial discrimination in the housing market? Answering this question is essential for developing effective policies to reduce barriers facing formerly incarcerated people and people of color in their search for housing.

To answer this question, we are implementing a field experiment to collect data on housing discrimination in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, before and after the implementation of this new policy. We are implementing “difference in difference” evaluation of the policy - comparing changes in discrimination in Minneapolis (where the policy will be implemented) to changes in discrimination in St. Paul (where the new policy will not be implemented). This will identify the impact of the new policy on housing discrimination.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Gorsuch, Marina and Deborah Rho. 2020. "What is the impact of ban-the-box on housing discrimination?." AEA RCT Registry. January 10. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.5240-1.0.
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
To examine the impact of ban-the-box on housing discrimination, we are conducting an experiment in which we send email inquiries from fictitious applicants to real landlords in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area who post vacancies for their rental units online. We began data collection in January 2020 and will collect data for five months prior to the implementation of the new policy and continue for at least six months after the policy goes into effect. We will track which applicants the landlords respond positively to via email or phone call. This style of study is known as a “correspondence study” or an “audit study” and is a commonly used method to test discrimination in the labor market (Bertrand and Mullainathan 2004) and the housing market (Andersson, Jakobsson, and Kotsadam 2012; Ahmed, Andersson, and Hammarstedt 2010; Friedman et al 2013).

We manipulate the name in the email and email address to indicate the potential tenant’s sex and whether the applicant is Somali American, African American, or white American. The Somali American names were selected from the CDC’s list of popular Somali first names. To select African American and white American names, we chose names that are racially distinct and pre-tested them to select names that clearly signal race and do not signal different socioeconomic status (Levitt and Dubner 2005; Gaddis 2015). Each email to the landlord includes an email address to contact the applicant. We use a Python program designed for correspondence studies that creates thousands of email text with these elements randomized (Lahey and Beasley 2009).

Intervention Start Date
2020-01-01
Intervention End Date
2021-01-01
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
We will examine whether landlords’ response rates to these applicants differ by perceived race of the potential tenants. While any individual potential tenant may be a better fit than another individual, on average all applicants are constructed to be equivalent - any difference in average response rates across perceived race can be interpreted as discrimination. We will test whether discrimination changes as a result of the implementation of ban-the-box. If discrimination in Minneapolis changes after the policy goes into effect, while there are no changes (or smaller changes) in St. Paul, the difference in the change in discrimination is the impact of the new policy. This evaluation method is known as a “difference in difference” - by tracking discrimination in areas unaffected by the policy, we are able to account for any broader changes in discrimination that are occurring separately from the new policy.

Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
. We will test whether discrimination changes as a result of the implementation of ban-the-box. If discrimination in Minneapolis changes after the policy goes into effect, while there are no changes (or smaller changes) in St. Paul, the difference in the change in discrimination is the impact of the new policy. This evaluation method is known as a “difference in difference” - by tracking discrimination in areas unaffected by the policy, we are able to account for any broader changes in discrimination that are occurring separately from the new policy.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Computer
Randomization Unit
Landlord
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
2000 landlords
Sample size: planned number of observations
6000 applications sent
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
3 applications per landlord
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
St. Catherine University
IRB Approval Date
2019-09-11
IRB Approval Number
N/A