A new study found that Uber and Lyft drivers discriminate most heavily against LGBTQ and black riders.
Professors Chris Parker and Jorge Meija at Indiana University conducted the study by creating passenger profiles with different names and pictures. Some of the profiles had photos of black women and men along with names such as Keisha or Jamal. Other profiles used photos of white people and names that are usually assumed to be white, like Emily and Greg. Finally, the researchers added a rainbow filter onto some of the photos, signaling that the rider is LGBTQ or an ally.
After observing over 3,200 journeys, Parker and Meija discovered that LGBTQ or ally riders were almost twice as likely to be canceled on by drivers. These cancellation rates were the same across races and at all times of the day.
“We know that LGBTQ riders face discrimination with these rideshare apps, but we thought that it was an interesting little twist, that even just signaling your support for the LGBTQ community could result in a canceled ride,” Parker told NBC News.
Additionally, black riders were almost three times more likely to be canceled on than white riders. They were less likely to face cancellations during peak hours, suggesting that the extra money was enough of an incentive to override the drivers’ bias.
All of this discrimination is taking place before riders even enter the car. And judging by many LGBTQ people’s experiences with Uber and Lyft, the discrimination doesn’t end there. Uber drivers have previously kicked lesbian couples out of their cars for sharing a peck on multiple occasions.
Parker recommends that rideshare apps penalize drivers who exhibit biased cancellation behavior, or reward them for the opposite.
“There’s a lot of next-step actions platforms might consider to ensure a good outcome and that everybody has a safe, comfortable, noncombative ride,” he said.