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What is an audit study?

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An audit study is a method of testing for discrimination in which two or more people (the auditors) apply for a job, housing, a credit card or various other goods, services, or positions. The auditors are similar or (ideally) identical in all respects except the one being tested for discrimination. So, for instance, several auditors might apply for a job with resumes that cite the same level of education, amount of experience and technical qualifications, but the auditors have different racial backgrounds. If the company selects only the white applicant(s), it is open to the charge of racism.

Audit studies have been criticized on the grounds that no two candidates can possibly be completely alike in all respects except one. Critics such as S. Michael Gaddis, a sociologist at UCLA, have also argued that audit studies often simplistically assume that certain names will inevitably be perceived as black, disregarding the wide range of names actually used by African Americans (abstract attached).

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