Study Finds Shocking Racist Practices by Uber and Lyft Drivers

Is requesting an Uber or Lyft as difficult for blacks as hailing a cab? A new study suggests that may be the case

(Image: iStock/GoodLifeStudio)

A study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research found some disturbing racist practices by ride-sharing service drivers. Using groups of black, white, and multiethnic students in Boston and Seattle, researchers set up a series of experiments using Uber, Lyft, and Flywheel.

Here are some of the significant findings:

  • Trip requests from African Americans take between 16% and 28% longer to be accepted by UberX and Lyft drivers.
  • For UberX, African Americans wait between 29% and 35% longer for a pickup.
  • The probability that an UberX driver accepts a ride request, but then cancels, more than doubles for African American fares.
  • African American males are three times as likely to have their pickup request canceled.
  • UberX drivers are three times as likely to cancel a ride on a male with a “black-sounding” name.
  • Waiting times were the same for African Americans and white travelers using Lyft.
  • Although there was “evidence of racial discrimination among UberX drivers, [and] some evidence of discrimination about Lyft drivers, [there was] no evidence of discrimination among Flywheel drivers.”

The researchers concluded that Flywheel drivers were less likely to exhibit racism when picking up fares, because the service does not include photos of travelers in their profiles. Also, because Flywheel uses existing taxi drivers, the drivers who sign-up for the service may be less inclined to discriminate.

In an email comment to Black Enterprise, Adrian Durbin, director of policy communications at Lyft, said that this study was flawed. “Some of the reporting on this study has completely missed the mark about Lyft, and I am hoping to fix that. Namely, some of the coverage has implied that both Uber and Lyft saw similar results from the study, which is very far from the truth. In Boston, the study found NO evidence of discrimination by Lyft drivers. And in Seattle, the only evidence was a four-second increase in the time it took for black passengers to have a ride accepted, but there was no difference in the amount of time it took for black passengers to actually get a ride.”

“We are extremely proud of the positive impact Lyft has had on communities of color.  Because of Lyft, people living in underserved areas, which taxis have historically neglected, are now able to access convenient, affordable rides. We provide this service while maintaining an inclusive and welcoming community, and [we] do not tolerate any form of discrimination.”

“Ride-sharing apps are changing a transportation status quo that has been unequal for generations, making it easier and more affordable for people to get around—no matter who they are or where they live,” said Rachel Holt, head of North American operations of Uber, in an emailed statement.

“Discrimination has no place in society, and no place on Uber. We believe Uber is helping reduce transportation inequities across the board, but studies like this one are helpful in thinking about how we can do even more.”

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  • Stewart Monk

    I drive for Lyft and have driven for Uber in the past and I do discriminate when it comes to accepting a fare request from blacks. The likelihood that I won’t be tipped goes up when a black is my fare because blacks simply don’t tip. The likelihood of me being robbed goes up because blacks live in ghettos. The statistics dont lie and if someone can prove me wrong then go ahead and try. In reality if blacks were more civil and tipped accordingly I would have no problem picking them up.

    • Ricardo angarica

      Uber and Lyft discourages tipping to to begin with 90% of pax do not tip

    • Victoria

      Dear Steve,

      You’re generalizing an entire Black community and making it appear as if all of us live in the same type of neighborhood and vicinity when in fact there are a diverse group of Black people who live in various types of neighborhood and not just in the ghetto. In fact, many of them have incomes higher than yours which grant them the privilege of being able to not only afford a home within their income bracket in a suburban area but also afford them the luxury of buying their own car which leads you to presume based off of your narrowed experiences and lack of cultural competency that all Black people live in the ghetto when in fact that is not the case. Bear in mind that African Americans do not make up the majority of this country and that most ghettos are actually occupied by whites in looking at it from a national perspective. More than likely how you even define the word ghetto is most likely inaccurate as you’re basing it off misinformed knowledge and utilizing the misnomer behind what a ghetto actually consists of. While political correctness may not be your forte, you can certainly be at least less ignorant in your careless and blatantly racist assumptions about African Americans. As far as tipping is concerned, the customers you service probably fail in doing so because of your service in treating them with microaggressions from the moment they enter your car not because of their inability or failure to tip you. Please have a lesson in cultural competency as well as a class on the sociology of African Americans so that this notion you have in your narrow minded head of “All black people being the same” is completely eradicated from your mind for the better. Thank you.

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