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Housing Discrimination Research


PD&R studies the presence and extent of discrimination in the housing market. It has performed such studies for over 40 years and has expanded its focus to various markets.



A Paired-Testing Pilot Study of Housing Discrimination against Same-Sex Couples and Transgender Individuals (2021)

A Paired-Testing Pilot Study of Housing Discrimination against Same-Sex Couples and Transgender Individuals (2021)

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has sponsored paired-testing studies to document and estimate rates of discrimination in housing markets since the late 1970s. This report presents findings from a pilot study of discrimination in the rental housing market based on sexual orientation (using same-sex relationship status as a proxy) and gender status, two categories that are not covered explicitly by the Fair Housing Act. This study was designed to (1) develop and pilot test an in-person, paired-testing protocol to estimate rental housing discrimination against men partnering with men and women partnering with women relative to comparable heterosexual couples, (2) develop and pilot test an in-person, paired-testing protocol to estimate rental housing discrimination against transgender individuals, and (3) compare the utility of remote testing conducted by telephone or e-mail with in-person testing. The research team conducted a total of 2,009 paired tests in Dallas, TX; Los Angeles, CA; and Washington, DC. Findings included that housing providers treated lesbians comparably to heterosexual women seeking rental housing, told gay men about one fewer available rental unit for every 4.2 tests than they told heterosexual men, and told transgender testers about fewer units than they told cisgender homeseekers. Read Report >>

A Pilot Study of Landlord Acceptance of Housing Choice Vouchers (2018)

A Pilot Study of Landlord Acceptance of Housing Choice Vouchers (2018)

This pilot study uses rigorous paired testing methodology to explore landlord treatment of Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) holders during the initial stages of the housing search process. It is the first study to use paired testing methods across multiple sites to examine landlord treatment of HCV holders. The study finds that landlords often refuse to rent to HCV holders. In most cases, the landlord refusal takes place early in the search process, when a tester calls the landlord and asks whether Housing Choice Vouchers are accepted. In other cases, the landlord may suggest that vouchers are accepted, but subsequently fail to show up for a scheduled appointment. Landlord denial rates vary across the five study sites and may be influenced by factors such as state or local laws that prohibit discrimination by source of income (particularly local source of income laws that include protections for Section 8/voucher holders), housing market conditions, and voucher payment standards. Read Report >>

Rental Housing Discrimination on the Basis of Mental Disabilities: Results of Pilot Testing (2017)

Rental Housing Discrimination on the Basis of Mental Disabilities: Results of Pilot Testing (2017)

More than 15 million people in the United States have some type of mental disability. Many of these individuals seek community-based housing in the rental market. As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision, an increasing number of individuals with disabilities are moving from nursing homes and other institutional settings into community-based settings. Additionally, the overwhelming majority of housing discrimination complaints received in the U.S. involve discrimination based on a disability. This pilot study represents the first comprehensive examination of discrimination in the rental housing market against people with mental disabilities (MD). The study specifically focuses on persons with mental illness (MI) and those with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD). The goal of the study was to increase the understanding of the prevalence and forms of housing discrimination against this population as they seek market-rate housing and to evaluate the utility of different approaches to paired testing when conducting research on housing discrimination on the basis of mental disability. Read Report >>

Future Directions for Research on Discrimination Against Families with Children in Rental Housing Markets (2016)

Future Directions for Research on Discrimination Against Families with Children in Rental Housing Markets (2016)

The essay Future Directions for Research argues that the results of the HDS-Families pilot study—and those of the most recent national paired-testing study of discrimination against minority homeseekers—suggest that protected classes of homeseekers are no longer blatantly denied access to available housing. Many fair housing advocates and practitioners suggest that discrimination today may take different forms or may occur at different stages in the homeseeking process. If so, effectively measuring the incidence of discrimination in 21st century housing markets may require alternative research strategies. This essay discusses possible adaptations to paired-testing study design; an analysis of local occupancy standards and how they are applied by housing providers; exploratory analyses of discrimination at later stages of renting; interviews of housing providers to understand their knowledge, attitudes, and practices; and a large-scale survey of renters. Read Report >>

Discrimination Against Families With Children In Rental Housing Markets: Findings Of The Pilot Study (2016)

Discrimination Against Families With Children In Rental Housing Markets: Findings Of The Pilot Study (2016)

This pilot study adapted a well-established paired-testing methodology to examine discrimination against families with children in the rental housing market, developed preliminary estimates of this form of discrimination, and explored what family or housing characteristics might affect it. Data were collected via telephone and in-person paired tests in three metropolitan sites: Dallas, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; and Los Angeles, California. The pilot study relied on a multifactor design using data from 612 matched pairs of rental applicants. Key findings are that homeseekers with or without children are equally likely to get an appointment with a rental agent and learn about at least one available housing unit. Compared with their childless counterparts, prospective renters with children were shown slightly fewer units and were told about units that were slightly larger, and, as a result, were slightly more expensive to rent. Other outcomes did not vary by the presence of a child. Differential treatment was greater in tests targeting one-bedroom units (versus larger units) and tests involving two-child families (versus one-child families). Other factors, including race/ethnicity and marital status of the tester and ages and sexes of the children, did not appear to affect systematically how families with children were treated in the rental housing market. Read Report >>

Housing Discrimination in the Rental Housing Market Against People Who Are Deaf and People Who Use Wheelchairs: National Study Findings (2015)

Housing Discrimination in the Rental Housing Market Against People Who Are Deaf and People Who Use Wheelchairs: National Study Findings (2015)

This report provides results of the first national paired-testing study of housing discrimination against people who are deaf or hard of hearing and against people who use wheelchairs. Given differences in the challenges faced by people who are deaf or hard of hearing from those experienced by people who use wheelchairs, there are two study designs. Tests with people who are deaf or hard of hearing focused on housing searches conducted with telecommunication relay services, whereas tests with people who use wheelchairs focused on housing searches for accessible buildings and housing units. In both cases, there is systematic evidence of unfavorable treatment. The findings presented here have broad implications for policymakers, fair housing practitioners, and researchers, telecommunications engineers, professionals in the housing construction industry, and those in housing management firms. Read Report >>

Housing Discrimination Today. Cityscape (2015)

Housing Discrimination Today. Cityscape (2015)

This issue of Cityscape offers a comprehensive review of HUD’s paired-testing research, which first focused exclusively on discrimination against African-American homeseekers, and, most recently, expanded to measure discrimination based on disability, sexual preference and gender identity, family composition, and housing voucher recipiency. Read Articles >>

Paired Testing and the Housing Discrimination Studies. Evidence Matters (2014)

Paired Testing and the Housing Discrimination Studies. Evidence Matters (2014)

This article in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of Evidence Matters looks at paired testing and studies investigating housing discrimination. Read Article >>

An Estimate of Housing Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples (2013)

An Estimate of Housing Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples (2013)

This is the first large-scale, paired-testing study to assess housing discrimination against same-sex couples in metropolitan rental markets via advertisements on the Internet. The research is based on 6,833 e-mail correspondence tests conducted in 50 metropolitan markets across the United States from June through October 2011. For each correspondence test, two e-mails were sent to the housing provider, each inquiring about the availability of the unit advertised on the Internet. The only difference between the two e-mails was the sexual orientation of the couple making the inquiry. Two sets of correspondence tests were conducted, one assessing the treatment of gay male couples relative to heterosexual couples and one assessing the treatment of lesbian couples relative to heterosexual couples. This methodology provides the first direct evidence of discriminatory treatment of same-sex couples compared with the treatment of heterosexual couples when searching for rental housing advertised on the Internet in the United States. Read Report >>

Housing Discrimination Against Racial And Ethnic Minorities 2012 (2013)

Housing Discrimination Against Racial And Ethnic Minorities 2012 (2013)

For much of the twentieth century, discrimination by private real estate agents and rental property owners helped establish and sustain stark patterns of housing and neighborhood inequality. Beginning in the late 1970s, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has rigorously monitored trends in racial and ethnic discrimination in both rental and sales markets approximately once each decade through a series of nationwide paired-testing studies. This summary report presents findings from the fourth such study, which applied paired-testing methodology in 28 metropolitan areas to measure the incidence and forms of discrimination experienced by black, Hispanic, and Asian renters and homebuyers. Read Report >>

Affirmative Fair Housing Techniques Demonstration: Final Report (2011)

Affirmative Fair Housing Techniques Demonstration: Final Report (2011)

Many organizations work with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to implement fair housing programs and policies. In particular, the efforts of Private Fair Housing Groups (PFHGs) have been recognized as vital forces in assisting HUD, as well as state and local governments, to promote fair housing patterns and practices. PFHGs have exhibited a strong commitment to fair housing and sometimes can pursue avenues not open to public anti-discrimination agencies. PFHGs have identified and combatted discriminatory techniques that have escaped the attention of others--including the federal government. Read Report >>

State Civil Rights Agency Demonstrations of Strategies To Fight Housing Discrimination: Final Report (2011)

State Civil Rights Agency Demonstrations of Strategies To Fight Housing Discrimination: Final Report (2011)

This case study is one of a series being prepared under contract to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of a HUD-funded research and demonstration project. A key element of this project was the provision of funds to nine State civil rights agencies to enable them to either launch or expand fair housing programs directed particularly against systemic discrimination. Read Report >>


Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities, Barriers at Every Step (2005)

Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities, Barriers at Every Step (2005)

This report is the fourth and last in a series of reports commonly referred to as the Housing Discrimination Study 2000. This report shows the level of discrimination faced by two groups in the Chicago metropolitan area: Persons who are deaf and use a telephone relay service to inquire about a rental unit and persons using wheelchairs who visit a rental provider in person. Read Report >>

Discrimination in Metropolitan Housing Markets: Phase 2 - Asians and Pacific Islanders (2003)

Discrimination in Metropolitan Housing Markets: Phase 2 - Asians and Pacific Islanders (2003)

This report is the third in a series of reports commonly referred to as the Housing Discrimination Study 2000. Phase III extends the paired testing methodology to provide the first rigorous estimates of the incidence and forms of discrimination American Indians face when they search for housing in metropolitan areas. Read Report >>

Discrimination in Metropolitan Housing Markets: Phase 3 - Native Americans (2003)

Discrimination in Metropolitan Housing Markets: Phase 3 - Native Americans (2003)

This report is the third in a series of reports commonly referred to as the Housing Discrimination Study 2000. Phase III extends the paired testing methodology to provide the first rigorous estimates of the incidence and forms of discrimination American Indians face when they search for housing in metropolitan areas. Read Report >>

Discrimination in Metropolitan Housing Markets: National Results from Phase 1 of HDS2000 (2002)

Discrimination in Metropolitan Housing Markets: National Results from Phase 1 of HDS2000 (2002)

This report is the first in a series of reports commonly referred to as the Housing Discrimination Study 2000. The results are based on 4,600 paired tests, conducted in 23 metropolitan areas nationwide during the summer and fall of 2000. In a paired test, two individuals—one minority and the other white—posed as otherwise identical homeseekers and visited real estate or rental agents to inquire about the availability of advertised housing units. This methodology provides direct evidence of differences in the treatment minorities and whites experience when they search for housing. Read Report >>

Mortgage Lending Discrimination (1999)

Mortgage Lending Discrimination (1999)

This document looks at research on mortgage lending discrimination. It found that minority homebuyers in the U.S. face discrimination from mortgage lending institutions. Read Report >>

What We Know About Mortgage Lending Discrimination in America (1999)

What We Know About Mortgage Lending Discrimination in America (1999)

This report provides a summary of what was known about mortgage lending discrimination in the United States in 1999. It outlines how discrimination can affect minorities’ access to mortgage capital at multiple stages of the lending process, and it suggests directions for further research and oversight on these issues. Read Report >>

National Report Card on Discrimination in America (1998)

National Report Card on Discrimination in America (1998)

In March 1998, the Urban Institute held a conference that looked at the feasibility and merits of creating a national report card on discrimination. Read Report >>

Testing for Discrimination in Home Insurance  (1998)

Testing for Discrimination in Home Insurance (1998)

HUD contracted with the Urban Institute to conduct an exploratory study of neighborhood-based discrimination in the provision of quotes for home insurance. The study looks at moderate-income minority and non-Hispanic white neighborhoods in Phoenix and New York. Testers telephoned insurance agents to obtain over-the-phone or written quotes for homes that were carefully matched. Further, these properties were located in neighborhoods that were matched on a range of traits but differed in terms of racial/ethnic make-up. Read Report >>

Housing Discrimination Study: Analyzing Racial and Ethnic Steering (1991)

Housing Discrimination Study: Analyzing Racial and Ethnic Steering (1991)

This historic report analyzes data collected as part of the 1989 Housing Discrimination Study (HDS) to estimate the frequency and severity of steering, the phenomena in which Black and Hispanic homebuyers are "steered" away from primarily white neighborhoods and instead offered housing in more integrated or less affluent neighborhoods. The research is based on over 2,100 paired-testing sales audits conducted in 25 metropolitan areas. Read Report >>

Housing Discrimination Study: Methodology and Data Documentation (1991)

Housing Discrimination Study: Methodology and Data Documentation (1991)

This historic report describes the methodology of the Housing Discrimination Study (HDS), a 1989 study to estimate the extent of housing discrimination against African Americans and Hispanics in major urban areas of the U.S. This report details how researchers gathered HDS sample data from the 25 chosen metropolitan areas, as well as how the data was weighted and prepared. Additionally, part two of the report provides instructions for users of the HDS data and supporting documentation including the data dictionary, survey instruments, and the auditor manual. Read Report >>

Housing Discrimination Study: Synthesis (1991)

Housing Discrimination Study: Synthesis (1991)

This historic publication summarizes the findings of the Housing Discrimination Study (HDS), a national study conducted in the spring and summer of 1989. The study, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) and carried out by the Urban Institute and Syracuse University, involved 3,800 fair housing audits in 25 metropolitan areas. The HDS is the successor of PD&R’s previous national audit of housing market discrimination, the 1977 Housing Market Practices Survey. Read Report >>

Families and Housing Markets: Obstacles to Locating Suitable Housing (1980)

Families and Housing Markets: Obstacles to Locating Suitable Housing (1980)

This report supported PD&R’s research efforts to look at the complex situations faced by families with children when they seek housing. Read Report >>

Measuring Racial Discrimination in American Housing Markets: The Housing Market Practices Survey (1979)

Measuring Racial Discrimination in American Housing Markets: The Housing Market Practices Survey (1979)

This historic report is part one of the Housing Market Practices Survey, a nationwide study to measure the nature and extent of discrimination against African Americans in U.S. housing markets and determine what factors influence this discrimination. The data for this report was gathered in 1977 by matched-pair teams of 300 Black and 300 white housing seekers, who responded to newspaper advertisements for rental or sale housing in 40 metropolitan areas across the country and relayed their experiences to researchers. This report describes the study's findings regarding extent and types of discrimination discovered. Read Report >>

Occasional Papers in Housing and Community Affairs (1979)

Occasional Papers in Housing and Community Affairs (1979)

This document looks at the status of research in racial discrimination and segregation in U.S. housing markets, and it identifies and ranks research initiatives that would enable HUD to help eliminate discrimination. Read Report >>

Women in the Mortgage Market (1976)

Women in the Mortgage Market (1976)

This study develops statistical methods, packaged as actuarial tables, to project women's expected income stream during the crucial early years of a mortgage. The actuarial tables indicated that, even in the late 1960s, women were performing substantially better with respect to income growth and income stability than lenders expected. These and other corroborative findings from other studies support the conclusion that the tables do not provide statistical justification for different treatment of women borrowers and co-borrowers. Read Report >>