Correspondence Experiments in Law An Empirical Approach to Anti-Discrimination Jurisprudence

Abstract | German law prohibits certain kinds of discrimination in private contract relationships. How can systemic discrimination be identified though? Recently, studies have employed “correspondence experiments”, a type of field experiment related to vignette studies: Researchers assume fictitious identities to enter into contract negotiations, and systematically vary the demographic characteristics of their assumed identity. By measuring the respective reaction of other parties, researchers can therefore isolate the causal effect of specific demographic factors on discriminatory responses. A new study from Germany (just published in the academic journal NZM) has used this methodology to identify discrimination on the housing market, based on whether a tenant received social welfare. The authors propose to follow the Irish example and to officially prohibit discrimination based on tenants’ welfare-status.

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Hanjo Hamann is a professor of private law, business and intellectual property law. He is currently based at EBS University of Business and Law in Wiesbaden, Germany. He is also an editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Language & Law (JLL), and visiting researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
Suggested Citation
Hamann, Correspondence Experiments in Law, LAW’S|EMPIRICS, 10/20/20, DOI: 10.25527/re.2020.05