If you're a woman and you shop for a new car, will you really get the best deal? If you're a man, will you fare better? If you're a black man waiting to receive an organ transplant, will you have to wait longer than a white man?
In Pervasive Prejudice? Ian Ayres confronts these questions and more. In a series of important studies he finds overwhelming evidence that in a variety of markets—retail car sales, bail bonding, kidney transplantation, and FCC licensing—blacks and females are consistently at a disadvantage. For example, when Ayres sent out agents of different races and genders posing as potential buyers to more than 200 car dealerships in Chicago, he found that dealers regularly charged blacks and women more than they charged white men. Other tests revealed that it is commonly more difficult for blacks than whites to receive a kidney transplant because of federal regulations. Moreover, Ayres found that minority male defendants are frequently required to post higher bail bonds than their Caucasian counterparts.
Traditional economic theory predicts that free markets should drive out discrimination, but Ayres's startling findings challenge that position. Along with empirical research, Ayres offers game—theoretic and other economic methodologies to show how prejudice can enter the bargaining process even when participants are supposedly acting as rational economic agents. He also responds to critics of his previously published studies included here. These studies suggest that race and gender discrimination is neither a thing of the past nor merely limited to the handful of markets that have been the traditional focus of civil rights laws.