Possibly and so I am putting the question out there in the hopes a journalist might investigate.
But first some context. In 2013, Redzo Mujcic and Paul Frijters (a frequent blogger here) published a study demonstrating unconscious discrimination on the part of bus drivers in Brisbane. Today, Ian Ayres took to the New York Times to promote the study’s findings.
As they describe in two working papers, Redzo Mujcic and Paul Frijters, economists at the University of Queensland, trained and assigned 29 young adult testers (from both genders and different ethnic groups) to board public buses in Brisbane and insert an empty fare card into the bus scanner. After the scanner made a loud sound informing the driver that the card did not have enough value, the testers said, “I do not have any money, but I need to get to” a station about 1.2 miles away. (The station varied according to where the testers boarded.)
With more than 1,500 observations, the study uncovered substantial, statistically significant race discrimination. Bus drivers were twice as willing to let white testers ride free as black testers (72 percent versus 36 percent of the time). Bus drivers showed some relative favoritism toward testers who shared their own race, but even black drivers still favored white testers over black testers (allowing free rides 83 percent versus 68 percent of the time).
The study also found that racial disparities persisted when the testers wore business attire or dressed in army uniforms. For example, testers wearing army uniforms were allowed to ride free 97 percent of the time if they were white, but only 77 percent of the time if they were black.
Wow. That’s quite a result and certainly the sort of thing we want our social scientists to be doing. No wonder Ayres raised it in the NYT. I did wonder, therefore, why I hadn’t heard much about it.
A possible answer came from Ian Ayres in a follow-up post at Forbes.
Professors Mujcic and Frijters deserve our thanks for authoring a study that is not only illuminating about what white privilege means. But their employer, the University of Queensland, has not thrown them a parade. After the City of Brisbane complained that the study encouraged fare evasion, the University initiated a complaint process against Professor Frijters and has ordered the authors to suppress this important paper. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. Instead of being persecuted, the authors should be praised for offering us a model for civil rights testing in the new millennium.
Now that is some allegation. If it is true it is shocking to an incredible degree. Not just that the City of Brisbane complained to the University but that the University, my alma mater, actually went so far as to suppress a paper.
I did a quick — but hardly investigative search — to see what this might all be about but didn’t come up with anything. But I think a response at the very least from UQ is required.