Chicago Booth Review

WHEN CHOOSING WHERE TO EAT, RACE MATTERS. New Yorkers are more likely to choose to eat out at a restaurant in a neighborhood with demographics that reflect their own individual race or ethnicity, find Columbia’s Donald Davis, Chicago Booth’s Jonathan Dingel, Pompeu Fabra’s Joan Monràs, and Princeton’s Eduardo Morales.

Their research illustrates that although it has been illegal to discriminate on the basis of race in the United States for more than a half century, some aspects of American life, such as eating out, remain fragmented along racial lines.

In the 1950s and ’60s, protestors pushed to desegregate spaces such as buses and lunch counters. The Civil Rights Act, passed in 1964, prohibits discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity in public accommodations. But in terms of consumption venues such as restaurants, how racially integrated are we?

… Davis, Dingel, Monràs, and Morales used the online review platform Yelp to analyze dining choices of New York City residents, culling information about home and work locations and racial identities from profiles and more than 18,000 restaurant reviews between 2005 and 2011…

They find that while consumption choices tend to be less segregated than neighborhoods themselves, it’s still possible to use the racial composition of a neighborhood to predict the race of consumers most likely to patronize its restaurants…

An Asian diner was 25 percent more likely to choose the restaurant in the more-similar area, they estimate, and a Black diner was 51 percent more likely to do so. For white and Hispanic diners, whom the researchers didn’t distinguish between when classifying Yelp users’ profile photos, the estimate was 31 percent.

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