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Men with Turkish Names Are Discriminated on the German Carpooling Market

Experiment at the University of Cologne urges online platforms offering carpooling services to offer anonymization / results published in ‘Population, Space and Place’

An experiment conducted by the University of Cologne on one of the largest Internet platforms for carpooling in Germany has found clear discrimination on the basis of ethnicity and gender. Young Turkish men, in particular, were discriminated against on the carpooling platforms examined. The study ‘Who can ride along? Discrimination in a German carpooling market’ has now been published in the magazine Population, Space and Place.

Carpools are inexpensive alternatives for people who want to cover medium to long distances independently of public transport and without their own car. The joint study by Dr. Sarah Carol, Daniel Eich, Michèle Keller, Friederike Steiner and Katharina Storz explored whether users of online carpooling platforms are treated differently according to ethnicity or gender. To do so, they used four fictitious profiles to address male drivers. The user names of one man and one woman sounded German, the other two Turkish, and the age of the fictitious users was in their mid-twenties. They analysed a total of 925 contacts, including the probability of the potential passengers being accepted, the response time and the order of answers.

The survey revealed clear discrimination based on ethnicity and gender both in the reached agreements and in the order of response, but not in terms of response time, which seems to indicate that drivers send out positive as well as negative replies at the same time. Women with German-sounding names have an advantage over male – and especially over Turkish-sounding male – users. Approximately 71 percent of women with German names received a positive reply, in contrast to only 44 percent of men with Turkish names. Men with German names and women with Turkish names received the same number of commitments (60 percent).

Looking at the nationwide distribution of discrimination in Germany, the results of the study show that users with Turkish-sounding names are not discriminated against more strongly in eastern Germany than in the west in the area of online carpooling opportunities. Sarah Carol explained the lack of East–West disparities as follows: ‘At first glance, this result is surprising. In earlier studies, eastern Germany showed a higher level of xenophobia, especially towards Muslims to whom a large part of the Turkish minority belongs. One reason for this unexpected result could be that drivers offering carpooling differ from the average population in their attitudes and may be more open to people from other groups. In addition, carpooling was more widespread in some formerly socialist countries.’

In order to avoid discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin and gender, the researchers suggest making requests from potential passengers more anonymous. ‘Otherwise, the existing discrimination will continue. In order to avoid this, it is important to counteract with possibilities of anonymization,’ Carol concluded.

Media Contact:     
Dr. Sarah Carol
Institut für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie (ISS)

Press and Communications Team:
Sarah Brender
+49 221 470-1700


Carol, Sarah, Daniel Eich, Michèle Keller, Friederike Steiner und Katharina Storz: Who can ride along? Discrimination in a German carpooling market. Population, Space and Place.