The US National Bureau of Economic Research just revealed a study on Racial and Gender Discrimination in Transportation Network Companies that was conducted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, and the University of Washington, reveals a bitter and uncomfortable truth – Uber and Lyft Drivers discriminate against women and African American riders.
The study was conducted in the United States, by hailing 1500 rides in Seattle, WA and Boston, MA and they noticed a pattern of discrimination against women and African Americans. In Boston it was onticed that women passengers were taken for longer and more expensive rides. In Seattle, African Americans had to wait about 35 percent longer than other white males; in Boston there were more frequent cancellations towards passengers whose names ‘sounded’ African American. In all the regions, the cancellation towards African American sounding names was twice as much compared to White sounding names.
Similar discrimination was noted and reported by African Americans on another platform called Airbnb, who have taken this issue into consideration and worked on a number of solutions that Laura Murphy, the former head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington D.C. Legislative Office suggested. One of those being that instead of a guest’s profile photo, their other relevant and objective features and attributes should be highlighted.
While these instances of racial and gender discrimination are disturbing, it is comforting to know that these issues are addressed by comapnies like Airbnb who are putting proper policies in place.
In the case of Uber and Lyft drivers, the working of these platforms also affects the behaviour of the drivers. In Lyft, the drivers are provided with name and sometimes even a photo of the passenger before they can accept fare, while in Uber does not give that information until after the booking.
Lyft spokesperson Adrian Durbin, emailed Fortune their statement saying, “We are extremely proud of the positive impact Lyft has on communities of color. Because of Lyft, people living in underserved areas—which taxis have historically neglected—are now able to access convenient, affordable rides. And we provide this service while maintaining an inclusive and welcoming community, and do not tolerate any form of discrimination.”
The Racial and Gender Discrimination in Transportation Network Companies research paper also provides some modifications that companies like Uber and Lyft can take forward to avoid further discrmination on the basis of gender and race – Instead of using a name, a passcode could be provided to identify a user, performing periodical audit of drivers who have been reported of discrimination is neccesary. These are only primary preventive measures that can make a difference in the working and behaviour of the respective drivers.
Feature Image Courtesy: Wall Street Journal