Online Shoppers Are Less Likely To Buy Items Modeled By Someone with Tattoos or Dark Skin

As much as we'd like to deny it, Americans are affected by skin color and appearance when it comes to online shopping. A recent study conducted by the Economic Journal of the Royal Economic Society found that online consumers were less likely to buy a product modeled or sold by a person with dark skin or tattoos

The study was conducted over a year-long period across the United States. The experiment involved an online classified ad selling iPods. The ads featured the same a silver, 8GB Apple iPod Nano, but with different models: one was held by a man's hand that was black, another that was white, and another that was white with a wrist tattoo. Researchers placed around 1,200 ads in more than 300 cities throughout the country.

Findings revealed that the ad featuring the black seller received 13 percent fewer responses, 18 percent fewer offers and 11-12 percent offers that were lower than their white seller counterparts. Similarly, the white seller with a wrist tattoo was almost as unsuccessful. 

Research also found that black sellers did better in areas where a larger share of the local population was black, suggesting that buyers might have a preference for own-race sellers.

The unexpected results even shocked the researchers. Co-author of the study and University of Virginia professor Jennifer Doleac, said, "We were really struck to find as much racial discrimination as we did." 

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