Dept. of unexpected findings, discrimination law division

by Walter Olson on July 25, 2014

“Study results in jurisdictions with state-level protections against housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation unexpectedly show slightly more adverse treatment of same-sex couples than results in jurisdictions without such protections.” [Samantha Friedman et al., "An Estimate of Housing Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples," SSRN]

{ 3 comments }

1 Chris 07.25.14 at 11:33 am

Eh, it seems likely that jurisdictions with discrimination problems are more likely to actually pass laws to do something about them. This might just be the study demonstrating the basis for the laws.

2 Malcolm 07.26.14 at 2:34 am

I think that is unlikely, Chris. Remember, same-sex couples represent a very small minority of couples. A rental agency could go for ages without meeting one. It is unlikely that the authorities would even notice the discrepancy. Needless to say, if it is just a matter of a landlord picking applicants A over applicants B when two enquiries are received, the law would be almost impossible to enforce.
I wonder if the experimenters actually identified the applicants as homosexuals or lesbians, or merely let the agency assume it. Because, remember, it is very common for unmarried heterosexuals of the same sex to flat together. Perhaps they have a bad reputation with landlords.

3 Alan Gunn 07.26.14 at 12:28 pm

It’s not unusual for antidiscrimination laws to increase discrimination. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, for example, amounts to a warning to employers not to hire old people, because if you need to fire or discipline them you risk litigation. Same with the Americans with Disabilities Act (which I believe was followed by a decline in the percentage of disabled people with jobs, though I don’t have a cite). On paper, these laws prohibit discrimination in hiring, too, but that’s hard to enforce, and someone you don’t hire in the first place is likely to be less unhappy with you, or at least less likely to sue, than someone you sack. Similar problems would seem to exist for housing discrimination cases.

I don’t think the argument that places with lots of discrimination are more likely to pass laws against it works. If anything, it should be the other way around: gay-friendly places would probably be more likely to pass laws against discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation than other places.

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