We use a natural field experiment to estimate the causal effect of race on discretionary favours in the marketplace. Test customers are randomly assigned to board public buses with no money to purchase a fare, leaving the bus driver to voluntarily decide whether to offer them a free ride. Based on 1,552 transactions, we uncover strong evidence of racial bias: bus drivers were twice as willing to let white testers ride free as black testers (72% vs. 36% of the time). Signals of wealth and patriotism improve minority testers’ outcomes. Our results show that white privilege extends to unregulated daily interactions.
Mujcic, R., & Frijters, P. (2021). The Colour of a Free Ride. The Economic Journal, 131(634), 970–999. https://doi.org/10.1093/ej/ueaa090