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Why Your Race Matters on Ebay

A new study shows that if you're black and selling things on eBay, you should probably have your white friend hold the merchandise.


At the advent of the internet, proponents of the new technology cheered that the web's anonymity would foster a world in which differences like gender and race would no longer matter. People of all ethnicities and political perspectives—at least ones who could afford a computer—would be able to mingle online and throw off the prejudices that tainted their real-world lives. But while the internet has indeed connected people from around the world in ways far superior to those of the past, alas, it hasn't yet been able to totally eliminate bigotry from its borders. And we're not just talking about YouTube comments.

In a new study called "Race Effects on Ebay," researchers from Harvard and Yale tested the difference experiences of black and white people selling things on eBay. One might think that, everything else being equal, there wouldn't be a discernible disparity in the online marketplace, where the only thing that should matter is the quality of the goods for sale. One would be wrong.

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