Selling While Black: Racism Revealed in Online Shopping Study

Identical iPods pictured with either black or white hands were offered for sale. You can guess what happened next. 

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Are you black? Considering making some cash by selling unwanted items online this holiday season? You might not want to show any of your skin in the photos of your goods.

The Daily Mail reports that according to the results of a newly released yearlong study tracking the sales of iPods on Craigslist, shoppers are more likely to make a purchase when they think the seller is white. 

Not only that, but researchers found that black sellers received lower offers than white sellers, and that buyers’ correspondence with them “indicated lower levels of trust.”

So much for only seeing green.

It’s just the latest arena in which disparate treatment based on race is not only perceived but actually backed up by numbers. Recently, a study of the preferences of the Facebook dating app Are You Interested found black men and women receive fewer responses to their messages than users of other races.

The researchers in the online shopping study, who published their results in the Economic Journal of the Royal Economic Society, posted 1,200 classified advertisements in more than 300 areas of the U.S. between March 2009 and March 2010, featuring similar photos of an iPod held by a man’s hand that was either black, white or white with a wrist tattoo.

Black sellers received 13 percent fewer responses and 18 percent fewer offers than their white counterparts. When money was offered, it was 12 percent lower than that offered to a white seller.

That gave them similar results to those of the white sellers with wrist tattoos.

The racial differences were even starker in thin markets, and in those with the most racial isolation, poverty and crime.