3.1 The rental housing market on the Internet
To investigate discrimination against transgender people in the rental housing market on the Internet, one of the largest online advertisement sites in Sweden will be used (www.blocket.se). On this particular site, private individuals and firms are able to put in advertisements to sell, purchase, and rent various objects, were rental vacancies are a common category. There is a commission for putting an ad on the site, but to reply to an ad acquires no cost. The only obligatory moment that is needed is to create an account by using an email address and a password. All contact is then made through messages on the site. Furthermore, to create a profile and thereby add additional information of the individual itself, such as previous work experiences, interests, education, and pets, is strictly voluntary.
Due to the fact that this study includes collection of information regarding the responses of landlords without them being informed and able to give consent, ethical concerns need to be taken into consideration. The present study will be conducted accordingly to the regulations on the site, and the choice to not include consent from the landlords will be done as to avoid potential influences of participants that can affect, and/or compromise the study. Furthermore, offers will shortly be replied to and denied, to not attain more time than necessary from the landlords. This in aspiration to do as little harm to the market as possible.
3.2 The experimental manipulation of gender identities of the applicants
To create the fictitious applicants, a signaling tool for the gender identity was needed. After consulting researchers within the discriminatory field, as well as interviewing an individual within the minority, a name change was decided to be the identity signal used in the experiment. This treatment has prior been used by Granberg et al. (2020), in studying discrimination against transgender in the Swedish labor market. However, as opposed to explicitly indicating a name change, as in Granberg et al., this study will use a more subtle and authentic approach to how applications are formed in the rental housing market. The name change will be constructed, such that a parenthesis containing the individual’s former name will be included between the first and last name when signing the letter. This is a more common way of incorporating a name change when applying for rental vacancies in the housing market, as opposed to stating the current name and previous name, such as H Larsson (prev. L Larsson) which was used in Granberg et al. For the transgender applicants the name change will be from a male to a female name (for the trans woman); and from a female to male name (for the trans man). The cis gender applicants, on the other hand, will include a name change from a male to a male name (cis man); and from a female to a female name (cis woman). Worth disclosing at this point, is that it is not uncommon in Sweden to change ones name, regardless of gender change. Between the years of 2013 and 2018 95,090 individuals in Sweden changed their names (Granberg et al., 2020). Therefore, to have all the applicants including a name change in their application letters is assumed to not be portrayed as rare in any sense for the landlords.
Thereby, two names are needed for each applicant of the study. However, since names might signal more than just gender, such as socioeconomic character, the two names will be randomly chosen out of five common Swedish names for each gender. This potential issue was pointed out in the study by Fryer and Levitt (2004), in which the authors argued that the results of the correspondence testing could be influenced by other socioeconomic signals when names were used to signal group belonging. The names used will be drawn from the most common baby names in Sweden in the year of 2000, in which the female names were: Julia, Emma, Wilma, Hanna, Elin; and the male names were: Filip, Oscar, William, Viktor, Simon. These two names per applicant were then matched with a common last name in Sweden, such as Andersson, Johansson, Karlsson, Nilsson, and Eriksson. Where the last name was randomly assigned to each applicant.
The choice to use the most common baby names from the year of 2000, is to attain common names of people that are around 20 to 30 years old. These names have been in the top among the most common baby names since the late 1990’s (SCB, 2021) and will therefore be a good fit to the experiment. Since they are randomly drawn there is a possibility that some names will be shared between applicants. However, since the identity involves a name change, there can only be one name, in terms of first names, that will be shared with another applicant. Thus, since the names used in the experiment cannot be identical, having a shared name with another applicant will have no impact. The final step is to construct email addresses for each of the testers. In this case one of the most common email providers will be used (gmail.com).
3.3. The construction of the application letters
The application letter firstly need to consist of an opening fraise, in which the landlord is greeted and the applicant make an introduction of him/herself and express interest in the rental vacancy that is advertised. The message is then ended with curtesy, and signed by the applicant with both the current name, and the former name, were the former name is in the parenthesis. The application letters are formulated in four different ways, and then randomized for each application. The choice to randomize the formulation of the letter, is done as to avoid the possibility of having the landlords becoming suspicious and thereby not act truthfully, as this could compromise the study. The construction of each message is written similarly to as follows:
My name is H., and I’m interested in the rental vacancy. Feel free to contact me if it is still available!
H. (V.) Nilsson
The message in the application letter may appear to be short and not contain much content. Worth noting is, however, that this is a common way to express interest in rental vacancies in Sweden. Therefore, the construction has an appropriate approach in order to remain the authenticity of the experiment. Furthermore, the choice to not construct any online profiles for the applicants is to be able to avoid having to stick to certain characteristics for all four testers. This problem is highlighted by Heckman and Siegelman (1993) and Heckman (1998), who discusses how the experimenter’s choice of how to set the other applicant characteristics, besides the name, might also have an impact on the estimates of discrimination. Thus, the present study aim to have clean slate applications, in all other regards besides for the text message.
3.4 Application procedure
The correspondence test will be conducted in April in 2021. A total of 800 applications will be sent to various landlords advertising rental vacancies on Blocket.se. Only one application will be sent to each landlord. This method was chosen as to avoid raising suspicion among the landlords, which can be a concern when applying the method of matched applications. The rental vacancies will be chosen without regards to size and cost. Advertisements that requires/requests contact through phone calls, postal letter, or to meet up in person will not be included in the study, such that all contact will only be performed by email format on the site. Furthermore, each landlord will only be contacted once in the experiment. The time and date will be recorded for each sent application, as well as information regarding the vacancy, such as appearance of the ad, location, rental cost, and landlord characteristics. These variables will be collected in order to examine the variations in discrimination. The observations will first be measured in terms of receiving a response or not on the applications. The time frame for attaining a response will be limited to two weeks. Past this limit, the observations will be categorized as no response. The attained responses will then be divided into two categories of whether they are positive, such that further contact and/or an invitation to showing is suggested, or negative, if the application is rejected for any potential reason. Information regarding time and date of attaining the email will be recorded. Lastly, the amount of positive responses which only include an invitation to a showing, without asking for further information, will be noted. As earlier stated, each positive response which asks for further information or invites to a showing of the vacancy, will be politely declined within short period of time. This will be conducted as to not attain more time than necessary from the landlords.