Uber works great for white male riders. - Grist


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Uber works great for white male riders.

Non-white or non-male riders, however, may have a harder time. That’s the conclusion of a new study in which researchers had students in Seattle and Boston request rides on specific routes from Uber, Lyft, and taxi-hailing app Flywheel.

Here’s how it works: When you request an Uber, the driver can only see your location and star rating. After that driver accepts, they get your name and picture, too — and may cancel if they don’t like what they see. Researchers zeroed in on cancellations to measure discrimination, says Don MacKenzie, one of the study’s coauthors.

For the Boston study, riders used preset identities with names like Keisha, Rasheed, Allison, and Todd. The male riders who used stereotypically black names saw a cancellation rate of 11.2 percent, compared to the 4.5 percent cancellation rate of those using white names. Female riders using white names had a cancellation rate of 5.4 percent, while female riders with black names experienced a cancellation rate of 8.4 percent, nearly double the cancellation rate for white male riders (MacKenzie points out that difference is not statistically significant).

Finally, women were sometimes subjected to unnecessarily long rides from talkative drivers — resulting in lost time and money for those riders.