Are Americans less likely to reply to emails from Black people relative to White people?

Ray Block, Charles Crabtree, John B. Holbein, J. Quin Monson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


In this article, we present the results from a large-scale field experiment designed to measure racial discrimination among the American public. We conducted an audit study on the general public- sending correspondence to 250,000 citizens randomly drawn from public voter registration lists. Our within-subjects experimental design tested the public's responsiveness to electronically delivered requests to volunteer their time to help with completing a simple task-taking a survey.We randomized whether the request came from either an ostensibly Black or an ostensibly White sender. We provide evidence that in electronic interactions, on average, the public is less likely to respond to emails from people they believe to be Black (rather than White). Our results give us a snapshot of a subtle form of racial bias that is systemic in the United States. What we term everyday or "paper cut" discrimination is exhibited by all racial/ethnic subgroups-outside of Black people themselves-and is present in all geographic regions in the United States.We benchmark paper cut discrimination among the public to estimates of discrimination among various groups of social elites.We show that discrimination among the public occurs more frequently than discrimination observed among elected officials and discrimination in higher education and themedical sector but simultaneously, less frequently than discrimination in housing and employment contexts. Our results provide a window into the discrimination that Black people in the United States face in dayto- day interactions with their fellow citizens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2110347118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number52
StatePublished - Dec 28 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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