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Racial Bias Persists Among Ridesharing Drivers: Study

Even as ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft have removed information that could indicate a rider’s gender and race from initial ride requests, reports of drivers discriminating against certain groups have persisted, a recent study found.

The researchers, who performed a field experiment on a ridesharing platform in fall 2018 in D.C., found that 8 percent of customers from unrepresented racial groups had their rides canceled, compared to only 3 percent of white customers, the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported.

But while the study, “When Transparency Fails: Bias and Financial Incentives in Ridesharing Platforms,” shows that biases against underrepresented groups continued to exist after drivers accepted a ride request, the ridesharing platforms’ efforts shifted some of the biased behavior to until after the ride was confirmed. This resulted in higher cancellation rates.

“Our results confirm that bias at the ride request stage has been removed,” said Jeorge Mejia, assistant professor of operations and decision technologies at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, who was the lead author of the study. “However, after ride acceptance, racial biases are persistent, while we found no evidence of gender biases.”

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