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Professors: Motorists more likely to run over black people than white people

Federally funded study suggests black pedestrians face racial discrimination at crosswalks

A recently published study funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation claims to show that black pedestrians face racial discrimination at crosswalks.

The study, “Racial bias in driver yielding behavior at crosswalks,” was published in Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour. It was conducted by professors Kimberly Barsamian Kahn and Arlie Adkins of Portland State University and University of Arizona, respectively, and PhD student Tara Goddard of Portland State.

“There has been a lot of research into the effects of implicit racial bias in areas from job hiring to health care provisions. This was just two transportation experts and a social psychologist coming together to see if some if these biases that we see in other areas showed up in crosswalks,” Adkins told The Daily Wildcat campus newspaper.

Not only did they come together to test biases, the study received funding from a National Institute for Transportation and Communities “Small Starts” grant funded by the U.S Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration. Professor Kahn received just under $10,000 for the project.

In the experiment, six white and black men, three of each, all in their mid-twenties, crossed a street in Portland, Ore., 15 times each. To eliminate other potential factors of bias, each participant wore similar clothing and practiced walking the same.

The table below shows the results from the study, which aimed to see if there was a difference in time required waiting at a crosswalk for black or white pedestrians and how many cars passed by before they could walk.


“It was not a very large study, so we weren’t sure the amount of data collected would be enough to reach statistical significance, so we were surprised to see how quickly the significance showed up,” said Adkins to The Huffington Post, acknowledging the unreliability a small sample presents.

While the experiment was funded by the Department of Transportation, the focus seems to be on racial inequalities.

Kahn is an assistant professor of social psychology at Portland State University and her research “addresses contemporary forms of racial bias that are hidden, subtle, ignored, or unacknowledged by majority or minority group members within society,” according to an online profile.

The authors stated that they believe implicit bias is at fault here for the alleged racial transgressions, “Implicit racial attitudes are subtle beliefs that individuals hold beneath their conscious awareness, but that can lead to discriminatory behavior and outcomes,” write the authors in their journal article.

According to the study, “routine inconvenience such as additional delay at a crosswalk, can add up to significant burdens for racial minorities.”

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About the Author
Alex Pfeiffer -- The University of the South