Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

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jseah
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Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby jseah » Wed Jul 29, 2015 12:46 pm UTC

Could someone explain to a non-American what the rationale is behind these two... whatever you call them. Laws?

I got pointed to these elsewhere and read their Wikipedia pages. This is how I understood them:
The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from rejecting tenants based on non-business criteria (which means credit history and criminal record).
Disparate Impact prohibits hiring practices that are not just discriminatory (which come under Disparate Treatment), but somehow or other result in different hiring rates for protected groups even if that was not the intention.

Both are very much tied to the idea that different people should not be treated differently but places the burden on the provider of the service/employment to prove that they are not (even accidentally) discriminating against a protected class.

/background

The minor culture shock I have here is that where I come from (Malaysia), both of these are treated as normal, excepting the racial quota for malays in businesses which is an irrelevant matter because malays are the majority here. While outright "No Chinese/Malay/Indian" signs aren't around and a Chinese eating at a malay coffeeshop isn't treated any differently (ie. no Disparate Treatment), no one watches for employment practices like interviews or such things that could discriminate against an employee of a specific race (Disparate Impact is a non-issue).
To wit, racial stereotypes are endemic and even to a certain extent, justified.

Landlords, especially those that stay with the tenants, often outright advertise for a specific race. For those that don't simply write the advertisement directly in the racial language (understood to be a racial criteria even if not outright stated).
In fact, due to large differences in religious, culinary and general living habits, attempting to house the two major races (malay and Chinese) in the same home would be... problematic in more ways than one. I would not be surprised to find that the Malays would refuse to eat in the same house if the Chinese attempt to use the kitchen.
Spoiler:
Personal anecdote here:
Due to training arranged by my company when I was hired, I had to stay with some malays and a Chinese colleague. The experience was... interesting. I would stay up too late compared to them, they would wake up too early. I had to specifically hunt down all halal ingredients if I wanted to do any cooking (to not do so would be to invite trouble I didn't want; I took home a can of non-halal certified preserved fruit one day and just kept quiet. They didn't explode or anything but then again I didn't tell them). Doing anything noisy around prayer time was also... not good.

I also fired up a few, let's say less SFW, visual novels during our off time. Which apparently violates some muslim rule or other I was not aware of until it happened. No way I was going to stop watching anime though, fanservice or not.

While most friction was satisfactorily resolved, I don't think either of us would want to do that again. And to imagine a housing situation where a Chinese landlord, say, was forced to take in a malay tenant, and neither side was as willing to accommodate each other as we were during training, I can foresee the tenancy being very shortlived.


Simply put, I don't understand the cultural background that explains these two laws, and when transplanted to my own experience, they appear absolutely ridiculous and unworkable (not to mention unenforceable).
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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby Trebla » Wed Jul 29, 2015 1:02 pm UTC

jseah wrote:Simply put, I don't understand the cultural background that explains these two laws, and when transplanted to my own experience, they appear absolutely ridiculous and unworkable (not to mention unenforceable).


They're very difficult to enforce, and enforcement usually (seems) to only happen when someone who feels they've been discriminated against raises the issue through the legal system.

The cultural background stems from the history of the US where minorities tended to be treated as second class citizens or worse. The entire power structure of the US was made of white men, they had all the money, all the "everything" pretty much. Because of this and the cultural racism that existed (in much worse form than it does today), minorities were simply being denied fair access to things like housing and jobs. It wasn't that different races could get different jobs... it was that only whites could get jobs (generally speaking).

To borrow your anecdote... you said you wouldn't imagine the different cultures wanting to live in close proximity, but say your business transferred you to an area that was 99% Elbonian... you had to be there for work. But the landlords would only rent to Elbonians. Restaurants would only serve Elbonians. You don't have a "real" choice to leave since your livelihood depends on your job (clearly we're fabricating a scenario of extremes here) but you can't find a place to live so you overpay to live in a slum as a bribe to the Elbonian landlord to overlook your ethnicity? Fair?

And of course, life isn't fair. But that's the point of these two laws... to attempt to make things more fair.

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby jseah » Wed Jul 29, 2015 1:14 pm UTC

How much of a minority are the blacks in America? Because the way it works here, the Chinese would look for a Chinese landlord and the malays look for a malay landlord. Practically no one applies to the other.

It is hard to imagine a scenario where that wouldn't apply (anywhere there are jobs, you will find all of the major races; hence anywhere you want to stay, you can probably find someone willing to rent a room).
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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby Chen » Wed Jul 29, 2015 2:20 pm UTC

jseah wrote:How much of a minority are the blacks in America? Because the way it works here, the Chinese would look for a Chinese landlord and the malays look for a malay landlord. Practically no one applies to the other.

It is hard to imagine a scenario where that wouldn't apply (anywhere there are jobs, you will find all of the major races; hence anywhere you want to stay, you can probably find someone willing to rent a room).


Well considering the general poverty level is significantly higher among blacks in America and systemic racism is still fairly prevalent, it would place an additional burden on black people if they could only rent from black landlords. Not to mention, there are far fewer black landlords again due to the overall poverty issue.

All the examples you provided also seemed far more like sharing a house than the standard living arrangements in the US. I would imagine most rentals are apartment rentals which are fairly self-contained. I'm not sure exactly how the act would apply to an individual homeowner sharing their actual living space with someone. Presumably there are any number of reasons why you wouldn't want to live with someone else, though those reasons may be derived from protected characteristics (i.e., religious food restrictions). It seems odd you wouldn't be able to reject someone in that case, since there would be an undue burden on you personally, since you would be living with them.

I imagine the act is more appropriate to situations where their protected characteristics have no real effect on you. A black person renting an apartment in a building you own, should have no inherent difference than a white person doing so. Discriminating based on race here seems like it would be what the act is intending to protect against.

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby jseah » Wed Jul 29, 2015 2:56 pm UTC

Yes, that's an interesting take on it. What about this other scenario I know in real life more relevant to your example:

My parents, when looking for a tenant for an apartment they were not staying in, mentioned to me that they did not want a tenant who was single, especially not white male tenants. Something about being too messy and forgetting to pay on time. They said they confiscated two previous tenants' deposits due to payment issues but didn't pursue legal action because it was too troublesome. I think the case that finally made the rule was when they had to evict one tenant via legal means but again did not bother to take the issue to court over two months of non-payment.
Basically, they want a tenant who will not require them to do things like confiscate the deposit.

Apparently they favour expatriate Japanese families, and I don't think they will look kindly on a single white male tenant ever again. At least not without something like an interview. >.<
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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby PAstrychef » Wed Jul 29, 2015 3:08 pm UTC

One of the bigger parts of American mythology is that of a mixed society. Instead of living in segregation, everyone is supposed to be able to live/work/play anywhere, with anyone. It doesn't work out too well in many cases, but it's a goal. Fair housing laws make it possible for people to live wherever they can afford to. For decades it was illegal for blacks to live in certain places, or landlords would refuse to rent to them or banks would refuse to give them mortgages to buy houses. The laws can differ by location, and are less restrictive for people who will be sharing the living space. They don't force you to share your house with someone you don't want to, but if you own an apartment building you have to(at least seem to) rent to anyone who is not a criminal or has serious money problems. Would a Malay family have a problem if the family next door was Chinese?
Disparate impact covers situations where past discrimination has caused difficulties for current people. Testing people from very good schools and very bad schools can make the students at bad schools look stupid, when they have been poorly educated. So some requirements can be altered to allow for that. If you want to have a diverse police force, and you need to get a large number of new officers on the street, you can adjust who gets hired to meet that goal.
Getting along with different kinds of people is also important in America. The idea of the melting pot, where everyone ends up American, no matter what they started out as, even if some folks now want to call it a salad, which appearently lets the different bits remain recognizable, drives a lot of the culture.
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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby Chen » Wed Jul 29, 2015 3:16 pm UTC

jseah wrote:Yes, that's an interesting take on it. What about this other scenario I know in real life more relevant to your example:

My parents, when looking for a tenant for an apartment they were not staying in, mentioned to me that they did not want a tenant who was single, especially not white male tenants. Something about being too messy and forgetting to pay on time. They said they confiscated two previous tenants' deposits due to payment issues but didn't pursue legal action because it was too troublesome. I think the case that finally made the rule was when they had to evict one tenant via legal means but again did not bother to take the issue to court over two months of non-payment.
Basically, they want a tenant who will not require them to do things like confiscate the deposit.

Apparently they favour expatriate Japanese families, and I don't think they will look kindly on a single white male tenant ever again. At least not without something like an interview. >.<


That's pretty classic discrimination there. Not all white males are bad people. Not all of them would be messy and not pay rent on time. Your parents are simply stereotyping based on race here. Racial stereotyping in this manner IS harmful. Start interviewing people, require references or whatever. Use actual methods to determine if the person is going to be a slob and late payer rather than simply assuming they will be based on the color of their skin or their gender or whatever. That's the entire reason for these laws existing.

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby Zamfir » Wed Jul 29, 2015 3:51 pm UTC

If you want more understanding, it might be a good idea to start with this
To wit, racial stereotypes are endemic and even to a certain extent, justified

And then look into the European/white american racial stereotypes about black people. Those are not about funny messy housekeeping and different cuisines, but about subhuman criminal idiots who need to be kept in their place. It might be that you're underestimating this aspect.

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby Sableagle » Wed Jul 29, 2015 4:29 pm UTC

jseah wrote:To wit, racial stereotypes are endemic and even to a certain extent, justified.
Here's your problem. A lot of people say that. Some believe that the racial stereotype that ... er ... Norse people need less sunlight to maintain their vitamin D levels and sunburn more easily than African people ... for example, is justified. Some believe that the stereotype that Norse and Matabele people tend to be taller than Hmong and Khmer people is justified. Some believe that ... well, check out the comments under any 5 much-watched YouTube videos about "white cop shoots black teenager" incidents in the USA and you'll probably see a lot of what some people believe. If you don't want to read all the comments, just type:

ctrl+f
n
i
g
g

... and you'll see one.

You may imagine the line about motes and beams was quoted here if you want to.

Laws against discrimination are there to protect people against the ____ you can find in YouTube comments ... or this:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-be ... s-27323114
http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/b ... 99562.html
Oh, Willie McBride, it was all done in vain.

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby jseah » Wed Jul 29, 2015 4:38 pm UTC

^I'll lay off on the youtube comments. Those things have a reputation for being extremely dumb.


Zamfir: Saw this late but I'll put this on top because it looks important.
What actually are these racial stereotypes? Because it's not like we don't have nastier ones than halal / non-halal food. But no one really takes those seriously, because you know, not every malay is a lazy person and not every Chinese is a moneygrubbing banker.

They don't have anything to do with tenancy because money looks the same whoever it used to belong to. It does for employment however, which is not helped by the image of Chinese as the employers and malays the employees (I have no statistics to back up a formal claim in this nature, but true or not this is the perception).

Addition: Just wiki-ed it. The watermelon and fried chicken thing is hilarious, a bit like the anecdotes of cooking. The rest are more disturbing. Or confusing, in the case of the claim that success of black athletes discourages academic achievements.

**********************
Hm. Cultural melting pot. Singapore did mention something like that, recalling my social studies classes (I grew up in SG).

Don't think it means the same thing over here, because racial self-segregation is the norm. Well, not in government housing of course. I know it is essentially discrimination but it's... seriously not a big deal over here.

PAstrychef wrote:Would a Malay family have a problem if the family next door was Chinese?

It depends. In a strip of terrace houses, probably not. There is enough spacing. I do see some Malays right across the road from where I am currently renting a room and I barely see them as it is anyway.

In an apartment as next door neighbours, that might be more of a problem. Especially if the Chinese does some cooking (which will not be halal, too many Chinese dishes have pork). Or if the Malay family has a loud call to prayer (the problem is not the midday and evening ones, but the one at 6am? somewhere around there).

Of course, the personalities involved make most of the difference. Two Chinese could be fighting a bitter war over something like whose dog ate whose plants' fruit, while the Malay next door has absolutely no problem because he doesn't cook and they don't mind the call to prayer. It's just that there are more surfaces to generate sparks than someone who shares all the same holidays and doesn't feel you are rude because you decided to eat in your front yard during the fasting month.
(FYI, that also happened to me; when I went to get a cup of milo during a tea break at work and brought it back to the office. Being the rude person that I am, I of course just finished the cup without a care =P)

Chen wrote:That's pretty classic discrimination there. Not all white males are bad people. Not all of them would be messy and not pay rent on time. Your parents are simply stereotyping based on race here. Racial stereotyping in this manner IS harmful. Start interviewing people, require references or whatever. Use actual methods to determine if the person is going to be a slob and late payer rather than simply assuming they will be based on the color of their skin or their gender or whatever. That's the entire reason for these laws existing.

Yeah I know that. I do read enough on xkcd. XD

They do meet with tenancy applicants of course, not as a formal interview though. And the impression they get is that white people are too rude. And they interpret rude as a marker that the person will be difficult to deal with and so never sign them on.
This is my interpretation on what is happening: The culture in this region is less forward than in the west, sometimes you are indeed expected to hold your peace instead of speaking your mind to avoid making future relationships more antagonistic. Sharp words and late payment reminders are like a direct criticism and can be viewed as breaking an unwritten rule. By the time it comes down to lawyer's letters and confiscation of deposits, it feels like outright war. So westerners have a stereotype of being difficult to deal with, and because of speaking behaviour, the assessment by proxy of the actual behaviour for messiness and late payments is highly biased.
(an example of being non-confrontational: the aforementioned drink during the fasting month. There were only joking remarks like 'you're making me break my fast" and mock jealousy. But it was that or go to sleep at work, and my boss is an Indian, so I took the risk. That might be considered rude but no one would ever say it to my face so I would never know. )

The flip side is that they don't want the risk and hassle of having to deal with these issues, so as long as enough other tenants are available, they will simply write out everyone with perceived higher risk based on a single behavioural marker. Requiring references and past history is close to impossible in most cases (no one does that here), so unfortunate as it may be, an indirect marker gets used.

If, for example, they meet a... oh I dunno, a shy and reserved single white male, they might be more likely to view that person favourably. On the other hand, the only way that would happen is if the agent recommended that person specifically (the agents themselves serve as another filter for potentially problematic tenants), due to once again, the racial self-segregation effect. You simply don't get a Malay applying for tenancy with a Chinese landlord. It has happened exactly zero times in my family.


This is somewhat related to the Disparate Impact part. Where some other non-racial marker, generates racially biased outcomes. While I think I might understand the housing part more now, this part still gets me.

If racial bias is an incidental result of another filtering process, what is the problem? The example Pastrychef gave about testing boggles the mind in particular. Employer issued tests are, not common but not unheard of. I have... heard along the grapevine that some companies use them because degrees over here are sometimes not trustable.
Even if it's not a demonstrable business need but, example, attention to language and grammar in an interview which obviously discriminates against non-proficient speakers and dialects -not just for English of course, a Chinese applicant would have an advantage in job interviews with a Chinese employer especially if the interviewer is more fluent in Chinese than in English. Do they just not allow interviews at all in America?

(even more eye-poppingly hilarious is the Wikipedia example of the fire department refusing to promote anyone because the result of a promotion test failed disparate impact. And then they got sued by the white firemen.
I mean, I have no words to describe that. Literally. If you wrote that in a story, I would call it unrealistic. -.- )
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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby Azrael » Wed Jul 29, 2015 6:22 pm UTC

jseah wrote:... because racial self-segregation is the norm.

The big influence in the US that hasn't been mentioned is that racial segregation was legal enforced until 50 years ago -- a hold over from racial provisions dreamed up after the abolotion of slavery (US Civil War era, 1860's) and the "Jim Crow" laws that followed. These were a disparate set of laws and policies specifically designed to prevent black people from acting like ... well, actual people. Read up on the now-disproven concept of 'separate but equal' and the two Supreme Court cases (Plessy v. Ferguson & Brown v. Board of Education) that started and ended the practice of widespread segregation.

Also worth mentioning are the Civil Right Act of 1965 that finally allowed black people to vote. Or the practice of desegregation busing in the 1970's that sought to integrate schools when neighborhoods that had long been legally segregated saw massive disparities in funding and educational quality. All of these progressive steps were bitterly contested, and many of the current statutes that disallow racial segregation stem from resistance to that long fight for equality. At the time there really was a widespread belief that black people really were inherently inferior and undeserving of the rights white people were entitled to -- and that's hard to overcome without explicitly setting up the tools necessary to prevent it.

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby Sableagle » Wed Jul 29, 2015 9:34 pm UTC

jseah wrote:And the impression they get is that white people are too rude. And they interpret rude as a marker that the person will be difficult to deal with and so never sign them on.
If, for example, they meet a... oh I dunno, a shy and reserved single white male, they might be more likely to view that person favourably.
This is somewhat related to the Disparate Impact part. Where some other non-racial marker, generates racially biased outcomes.
I'm missing something, or you are. How is not wanting single white males a non-racial selection? How is starting by assuming white people are rude and turning them down at once not racial? How does not taking on single tenants select racially, unless there's some racial difference in probability of having a partner before looking for a home? If they refused to take in single tenants and gnomes were inclined to find a home then a partner while kobolds were inclined to find a partner then a home, that'd be a non-racial selector creating racial selection against gnomes. If they didn't want single male tenants but were fine with single female tenants and ... er ... umm ... wood elf males and dark elf females found homes first then looked for mates while wood elf females and dark elf males moved from parental home directly to mate's home, they'd be accidentally selecting against wood elves. Not wanting white tenants isn't a non-racial selection process, though.
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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby elasto » Thu Jul 30, 2015 3:10 am UTC

I think you're missing something: How I read it is that, when his parents interview a white person, that person generally has cultural mannerisms (patterns of speech, degrees of assertiveness etc.) that come across as rude; But if they were to act shy and reserved they wouldn't.

To me though, that's no different to fearing the cultural lingo of a black person, or their clothing choices, and feeling it to be 'too aggressive/gangsta' or whatever.

It's still racist, because the races tend to have cultural identities also, but it's sort of one step more indirect than simply looking at the color of someone's skin and inferring their moral character from that.

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby jseah » Thu Jul 30, 2015 6:03 am UTC

That's a good point.

Is not just word choice and speech. Dress does play a part too. If someone turned up with multiple piercings and tattoos all over, I bet he/she wouldn't be accepted, regardless of behaviour. I don't know what would happen if a tall/muscular black man with a 'gangsta' style of speech tried to apply; but no agent would do that.


Azrael I think hit the point. Uh, hm. I could see why you would need the 1968 fair housing act if the racial segregation was government enforced.

How would this cover disparate impact?
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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby elasto » Thu Jul 30, 2015 7:45 am UTC

The thing is, piercing and tattoos are almost entirely cross-cultural. They are also entirely voluntary. Someone might be quite wrong to jump to conclusions about a person's character from their choices in this arena, but at least it wouldn't be racist.

The same is not really true when drawing an inference from someone's dialect, say, when dialects are not particularly voluntary and can be so strongly correlated to race.

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby leady » Thu Jul 30, 2015 10:33 am UTC

You say that but I'd guarantee that the tattoo criteria would also be applied racially

the white young man with some stupid arm tats gets far more of the benefit of the doubt to for example a Japanese man because the underpinning cultural relevance, i.e. the level of cultural non-conformity of the act is a strong guide to character and temperament

In any event there is an interesting side discussion buried in here about whether there is a lot of practical value to legislation that can be circumvented by choosing based on the variables that proxy to the proscribed (for example in the UK, using no housing benefit, married couples only will produce a highly narrow set as does the use of the term "professional occupations")

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby Azrael » Thu Jul 30, 2015 12:18 pm UTC

jseah wrote:Azrael I think hit the point. Uh, hm. I could see why you would need the 1968 fair housing act if the racial segregation was government enforced.

How would this cover disparate impact?

Disparate impact is the only good way to prevent a whole host of pocket vetoes that were thoroughly ingrained in the racially segregated society. Without it, someone could make the seemingly legitimate claim that their employees need to "sound professional" -- and by that they mean "talks like I do" which, of course, means "sounds middle class and white". It's was a perfect way to legitimize their refusal to hire huge swaths of minorities. There are hundreds of ways to pull off 'not explicitly racist, but enforces racism'.

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby cphite » Thu Jul 30, 2015 3:48 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:
jseah wrote:Azrael I think hit the point. Uh, hm. I could see why you would need the 1968 fair housing act if the racial segregation was government enforced.

How would this cover disparate impact?

Disparate impact is the only good way to prevent a whole host of pocket vetoes that were thoroughly ingrained in the racially segregated society. Without it, someone could make the seemingly legitimate claim that their employees need to "sound professional" -- and by that they mean "talks like I do" which, of course, means "sounds middle class and white". It's was a perfect way to legitimize their refusal to hire huge swaths of minorities. There are hundreds of ways to pull off 'not explicitly racist, but enforces racism'.


It is not necessarily "racist" to expect an employee to dress, act, or speak appropriately under professional conditions. It doesn't necessary equate to an expectation that they dress, act, or speak "like you do" either. In most professional offices, for example, you'll find a dress code, rules for appropriate behavior, and an expectation that you can communicate clearly and effectively.

If you have someone who can communicate clearly and effectively, but who's manager treats them differently because they "sound black" or something along those lines, then obviously that manager is a problem. On the other hand, if you have someone who actually cannot (or does not) communicate clearly and effectively, to the point where it has an effect on the workplace, that employee is a problem - regardless of their background.

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby Azrael » Thu Jul 30, 2015 4:45 pm UTC

cphite wrote:It is not necessarily "racist" to expect an employee to dress, act, or speak appropriately under professional conditions. It doesn't necessary equate to an expectation that they dress, act, or speak "like you do" either. In most professional offices, for example, you'll find a dress code, rules for appropriate behavior, and an expectation that you can communicate clearly and effectively.

No shit, Sherlock.

But when you are purposefully discriminating, it's really easy to hide under requirements like that. That's where the disparate impact act comes in -- if it ends up being racist, don't do it.

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby leady » Thu Jul 30, 2015 4:55 pm UTC

Now I fully disagree with that, its very possible to discriminate on completely valid factors for completely valid reasons and cause disparate impact - degrees in STEM being a perfect example.

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby Zamfir » Thu Jul 30, 2015 5:40 pm UTC

And, surprise, the legal standard does not apply if there is a 'business necessity'. Like a degree for jobs where that degree is relevant. It'S not very hard to show necessity, the barrier is low.

Still, the law puts the burden on the employer to show necessity, in cases where the requirement turns out to have a discriminating effect. That's a reversal of the normal procedure. It's heavy legal artillery, brought out after decades of legal tricks to get out of non-discrimination laws. A notorious case was a hotel that required 5 years of experience in hotels in the same neighbourhood (where no hotel employed black people).

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby PAstrychef » Thu Jul 30, 2015 7:16 pm UTC

And you end up with conversations like this:
There isn't much SF by non white authors out there.
Well, we just don't get many submissions from those writers, I guess.
You can tell the ethnicity of an author from the manuscript?!
Well, the ones where we can tell...just aren't very good. They don't have the kind of stories I like.

So fewer non white authors submit, because their chance of getting published is seen as compromised to begin with. And the publishers can use any excuse they want to keep putting out a very limited type of SF. At least you could theoretically create your own publishing house, but that just isn't equal to being seen in F&SF, for example.
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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby Azrael » Thu Jul 30, 2015 7:22 pm UTC

leady wrote:Now I fully disagree with that...

With what exactly? With Disparate Impact as a concept, as it's applied, my oversimplification of it, or what you've assumed it's meaning to be? Because this is what Disparate Impact is about, copied from wikipedia:

In United States anti-discrimination law, the theory of disparate impact holds that practices in employment, housing, or other areas may be considered discriminatory and illegal if they have a disproportionate "adverse impact" on persons in a protected class. Although the protected classes vary by statute, most federal civil rights laws protect based on race, color, religion, national origin, and gender as protected traits, and some laws include disability status and other traits as well.

Under this theory, a violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act may be proven by showing that an employment practice or policy has a disproportionately adverse effect on members of the protected class as compared with non-members of the protected class.[1] Therefore, the disparate impact theory under Title VII prohibits employers "from using a facially neutral employment practice that has an unjustified adverse impact on members of a protected class. A facially neutral employment practice is one that does not appear to be discriminatory on its face; rather it is one that is discriminatory in its application or effect."[2] Where a disparate impact is shown, the plaintiff can prevail without the necessity of showing intentional discrimination unless the defendant employer demonstrates that the practice or policy in question has a demonstrable relationship to the requirements of the job in question.[3] This is the "business necessity" defense.[1]

In addition to Title VII, other federal laws also have disparate impact provisions, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.[4] Some civil rights laws, such as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, do not contain disparate impact provisions.[5] The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet resolved whether the Fair Housing Act of 1968 creates a cause of action for disparate impact.[citation needed]

Disparate impact contrasts with disparate treatment. A disparate impact is unintentional, whereas a disparate treatment is an intentional decision to treat people differently based on their race or other protected characteristics.


That underlined bit ought to address your concern rather completely.

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby dg61 » Thu Jul 30, 2015 11:56 pm UTC

leady wrote:You say that but I'd guarantee that the tattoo criteria would also be applied racially

the white young man with some stupid arm tats gets far more of the benefit of the doubt to for example a Japanese man because the underpinning cultural relevance, i.e. the level of cultural non-conformity of the act is a strong guide to character and temperament

In any event there is an interesting side discussion buried in here about whether there is a lot of practical value to legislation that can be circumvented by choosing based on the variables that proxy to the proscribed (for example in the UK, using no housing benefit, married couples only will produce a highly narrow set as does the use of the term "professional occupations")


To use a real-life example-a few months ago, I got pulled over driving and had stupidly forgotten my wallet with my driver's licence. Because I was somewhat flustered, the cop gave me a warning and sent me on my way(needless to say, I returned home straightaway). Now I am a white, middle-class male who was driving a prius, so someone who would have been coded as "upper-middle class white" on sight. Had I been African-American I strongly suspect that things would have been a good deal more unpleasant for me.

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby dg61 » Fri Jul 31, 2015 12:22 am UTC

Chen wrote:
jseah wrote:How much of a minority are the blacks in America? Because the way it works here, the Chinese would look for a Chinese landlord and the malays look for a malay landlord. Practically no one applies to the other.

It is hard to imagine a scenario where that wouldn't apply (anywhere there are jobs, you will find all of the major races; hence anywhere you want to stay, you can probably find someone willing to rent a room).


Well considering the general poverty level is significantly higher among blacks in America and systemic racism is still fairly prevalent, it would place an additional burden on black people if they could only rent from black landlords. Not to mention, there are far fewer black landlords again due to the overall poverty issue.

All the examples you provided also seemed far more like sharing a house than the standard living arrangements in the US. I would imagine most rentals are apartment rentals which are fairly self-contained. I'm not sure exactly how the act would apply to an individual homeowner sharing their actual living space with someone. Presumably there are any number of reasons why you wouldn't want to live with someone else, though those reasons may be derived from protected characteristics (i.e., religious food restrictions). It seems odd you wouldn't be able to reject someone in that case, since there would be an undue burden on you personally, since you would be living with them.

I imagine the act is more appropriate to situations where their protected characteristics have no real effect on you. A black person renting an apartment in a building you own, should have no inherent difference than a white person doing so. Discriminating based on race here seems like it would be what the act is intending to protect against.



Not to mention there were often significant restrictions on Black land and property ownership, often in specific neighborhoods(for example, many neighborhoods in the US had racially restrictive covenants banning houses in them from being sold to blacks) and often there were more subtle but equally pervasive forms of segregation-for example, refusing to offer black families equal access to federal housing benefits or mortages to buy houses in areas that are predominantly white, the infamous practices of redlining and blockbusting. This also plays into disparate impact; you could for example come up with essentially arbitrary but blatantly discriminatory criteria or enact policies that are de facto segregation if not de jure. For instance, refusing to hire employees who won't work certain days that happen to be religious holidays or who wear the 'wrong kind of suit" would be considered a disparate impact unless you could show that this was necessary to your business(if for example you did the great majority of business on those days). Likewise, a policy offering extended housing tax credits for minority home ownership only if they were used within inner cities rather than suburbs would be considered discriminatory in fact since you're deliberately or inadvertently(as in "not our kind, dear") trying to keep minorities in certain segregated areas. This also extends to government policy on things like poll taxes or literacy tests for voting(another notorious problem, where literacy tests that were nearly impossible for even remarkably intelligent people to pass would be administered to African-Americans as a back-way of disenfranchising them).

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby Cres » Fri Jul 31, 2015 2:02 am UTC

jseah wrote:Could someone explain to a non-American what the rationale is...


Speaking as another non-American, I can assure you that there is nothing peculiarly American about recognising that racism is reprehensible, which is the core rationale for these laws.

(Of course, as explained by other posters, the rationale for the exact form and wording of the specific laws in question does stem from the US cultural, historical and institutional context; the same is true for anti-racism laws in Germany, or New Zealand, or South Africa.)

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby jseah » Fri Jul 31, 2015 4:57 am UTC

I'm still trying to wrap my head around the burden of proof though.

Because disparate impact still reads to me like assuming a employer is racist. Especially the 80% rule, which seems to be awfully close to racial quotas. (Perhaps I'm over sensitive to racial quotas, they have a very bad reputation over here)

I have no problems with banning stealth racism, but the way it appeared on wiki to me was like this:

You, as an employer, cannot implement any selection criteria you are unable to defend in court; in case it ever generates more than a 20% variation in results between races.

This includes any sort of proxy to a person's character (which we are unable to measure directly); whether or not you actually do run afoul of disparate impact this one time because it is a continuing process and 80% for a small group of interviewees will happen pretty often.

And the standard for proving business necessity still needs to hold up in court. Can you prove your performance evaluation procedures are actually effective (presumably you can't use an ineffective test for a necessary criteria)? That could cost quite a bit in time and money to show.
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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby leady » Fri Jul 31, 2015 8:53 am UTC

unless the defendant employer demonstrates that the practice or policy in question has a demonstrable relationship to the requirements of the job in question


I understand this, I just suspect that in practice it renders the whole legal discussion meaningless because the bar is set meaninglessly low because anything else will be a horrendous burden. Basically it forces low skilled jobs to be mixed (which given min cost of labour is typically the concern, is rarely a big issue), but in fact actively enables barriers to professional jobs. The obvious example to me is the current idiotic trend to need a degree to get any white collar job when a tiny fraction really need one, which of course generates a "justifiable" disparate impact

And the standard for proving business necessity still needs to hold up in court. Can you prove your performance evaluation procedures are actually effective (presumably you can't use an ineffective test for a necessary criteria)? That could cost quite a bit in time and money to show.


This is absolutely the standard for everything these days and it is horribly expensive

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby Azrael » Fri Jul 31, 2015 11:33 am UTC

jseah wrote:Because disparate impact still reads to me like assuming a employer is racist.

When it was written, they were. Hands down.

jseah wrote:Especially the 80% rule, which seems to be awfully close to racial quotas.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disparate_impact:

...A "substantially different" rate is typically defined in government enforcement or Title VII litigation settings using the 80% Rule, statistical significance tests, and/or practical significance tests.

...Since the 1980s, courts in the U.S. have questioned the arbitrary nature of the 80 percent rule, making the rule less important than it was when the Uniform Guidelines were first published. A recent memorandum from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission suggests that a more defensible standard would be based on comparing a company's hiring rate of a particular group with the rate that would occur if the company simply selected people at random

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby jseah » Fri Jul 31, 2015 12:37 pm UTC

Being somewhat interested in the formulation of such a test, I had a few random thoughts:

To prove an employer is not racist towards a specific group, you need a baseline pass rate for the test (independent administration towards a representative population meeting other selection criteria?). Statistically significant deviations from the baseline distribution would then indicate an employer is racist.

Assuming the population responds to a test with a normal distribution? A t-test might work. Chi-square might be needed for tests with non-binary outputs.

What sort of p-value are we looking at? 95% confidence? A high p-value would avoid false-positives, a low p-value would avoid false-negatives.


Yeah, I could understand something more like this.


EDIT: Also, a history of all employers being racist would be >.> Seriously? Huh.
I could also see where my experience differs from that.
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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby doogly » Fri Jul 31, 2015 12:52 pm UTC

It's also worth noting that in the US (and this may vary by state and not be the entire US, I'm not sure, but I think perhaps everywhere) the Fair Housing and other restrictions on landlords don't apply if you are a resident landlord. So a Malay person looking to rent out in rooms in the building where they themselves lived could not only say that they only wanted to rent to Malays, but to practicing Muslim Malays. You cannot do anything like this with general property management and ownership.

And are you suuuure the history of systematic racism in Malaysia managed to actually get the "separate but equal" thing right?
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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby leady » Fri Jul 31, 2015 2:42 pm UTC

doogly wrote:And are you suuuure the history of systematic racism in Malaysia managed to actually get the "separate but equal" thing right?


I suspect having a higher GDP per capita in the discriminatory host country helps assuage such things. Similarly I've heard of British student moaning about the racism they experience in Japan, but you'll rarely hear ex-pat middle east workers moan.


Testing for disparate impact accurately is really hard though. As Sowell pointed out in the 80s - its not so much that employers discriminate, but that some groups of people don't fall into the correct categories. This is a result of state policy. For example I wouldn't be surprised if in the UK if the expansion of education to 45% of young people whilst making it more expensive hasn't diluted away the lower rate of minority degree achievement (although in the UK its a very different mixed bag across minority groups - with several outperformers)

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 03, 2015 7:49 pm UTC

jseah wrote:The minor culture shock I have here is that where I come from (Malaysia), both of these are treated as normal, excepting the racial quota for malays in businesses which is an irrelevant matter because malays are the majority here. While outright "No Chinese/Malay/Indian" signs aren't around and a Chinese eating at a malay coffeeshop isn't treated any differently (ie. no Disparate Treatment), no one watches for employment practices like interviews or such things that could discriminate against an employee of a specific race (Disparate Impact is a non-issue).
To wit, racial stereotypes are endemic and even to a certain extent, justified.


Culture shock happens here, too, but culture is...somewhat less connected to race. Or color, which is what people apparently mean when they say race. I am "white", but that doesn't really mean anything. The actual subcultures I fit into are much more specific, and while sure, some culture is derived from national history or whatever, some isn't. My sleep schedule is mostly driven by my job, not specific cultural norms that differ from those around me.

Enforcement being difficult, however, is totally a thing. Discrimination isn't wholly gone or anything...it's just hidden from view. There are totally people who won't rent to a given race. They just don't advertise that. Instead, they have an interview, and decide not to rent to you. They might cite some reason. They might not. They just don't give the real reason. Hiring, same same. It's very difficult in many situations to prove this unless the discriminating party seriously made an error.

So, we don't really have a reason for discrimination, and the laws are made with the intent of fixing pointless discrimination, but the actual results....eh.

jseah wrote:How much of a minority are the blacks in America? Because the way it works here, the Chinese would look for a Chinese landlord and the malays look for a malay landlord. Practically no one applies to the other.

It is hard to imagine a scenario where that wouldn't apply (anywhere there are jobs, you will find all of the major races; hence anywhere you want to stay, you can probably find someone willing to rent a room).


Varies wildly. In some areas, seriously it seems like everyone is white. I live near Baltimore. It's not at all unusual for white folks to be a minority in a given area, and generally, there's a pretty good blend. But, the US is very large, and one part is not like another. You do see some self segregation even in the more balanced areas, though. The laws haven't removed that.

jseah wrote:My parents, when looking for a tenant for an apartment they were not staying in, mentioned to me that they did not want a tenant who was single, especially not white male tenants. Something about being too messy and forgetting to pay on time. They said they confiscated two previous tenants' deposits due to payment issues but didn't pursue legal action because it was too troublesome. I think the case that finally made the rule was when they had to evict one tenant via legal means but again did not bother to take the issue to court over two months of non-payment.
Basically, they want a tenant who will not require them to do things like confiscate the deposit.


This totally happens. It might not be an explicit rule, but everything from the interview to background checks are used to screen out those more likely to cause trouble, in the opinion of the landlord.

And sometimes, it IS explicit. Discriminating against younger people is fairly widely accepted. 65+ communities are considered normal. This would probably also continue in practice even if a law were somehow passed against it.

There's this mess of various national perceptions. Messy history of racism to the point of slavery with a particularly bloody war...it's a *really* big part of US history. Racism is just not worried about as much in some other countries, while other things may be worried about more. It can be a bit complex, really. But, of course nobody wants to be thought of as racist, and calling someone that is generally seen as something of an insult or slur. Potentially one that can affect your career, etc, if taken seriously, so it's a rather big deal. And of course, some people would simply prefer not to think about the issue, so they pretend it's been fixed, or whatever. None of that really fixes the issue, but it helps explain some of the reactions surrounding it.

So, you've got this long history of racist things getting banned, and people doing racist things anyway, but attempting to find other reasons to justify it, and this creates lots of suspicion, of course, so it's just sort of an ongoing mess. You've got different layers beyond explicit, direct racism to consider.

Azrael I think hit the point. Uh, hm. I could see why you would need the 1968 fair housing act if the racial segregation was government enforced.


The government-enforced racism was...particularly bad. We've *mostly* gotten over that, at least, but it used to be wildly pervasive. Shit, there still people living who got put in camps in ww2 because of their race. Putting people in camps is pretty high up there on the list of terrible things you can do. That's within a single generation still. So, we're not THAT far away from really intense government racism from a historical viewpoint(and other examples are even more recent).

I'm not overly fond of racial quotas or the like, but there is a valid concern here historically. Direct quotas usually are a bad idea for a number of reasons, but using statistics to evalutate progress is valid, of course. There's a really fine line here, and one that's super touchy for historical reasons, so it's really easy for anything here to instantly become controversial.

There's also the issue that small sample sizes are rubbish. My first two employees both happened to be young females. There was no selection process for this, they simply happened to be the ones who applied that were not obviously unsuited for the job. I've had people assume that this was, for some nefarious reason, intentional, but ehhhh, two people, you just can't really expect good representation. Even with larger groups, if you recruit largely off of referals, etc, self-segregation will probably screw your stats.

Basically, there's really no good way to stamp out undercover racism and also not horribly burden businesses who are not discriminating.

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby dg61 » Wed Aug 05, 2015 5:44 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
jseah wrote:The minor culture shock I have here is that where I come from (Malaysia), both of these are treated as normal, excepting the racial quota for malays in businesses which is an irrelevant matter because malays are the majority here. While outright "No Chinese/Malay/Indian" signs aren't around and a Chinese eating at a malay coffeeshop isn't treated any differently (ie. no Disparate Treatment), no one watches for employment practices like interviews or such things that could discriminate against an employee of a specific race (Disparate Impact is a non-issue).
To wit, racial stereotypes are endemic and even to a certain extent, justified.


Culture shock happens here, too, but culture is...somewhat less connected to race. Or color, which is what people apparently mean when they say race. I am "white", but that doesn't really mean anything. The actual subcultures I fit into are much more specific, and while sure, some culture is derived from national history or whatever, some isn't. My sleep schedule is mostly driven by my job, not specific cultural norms that differ from those around me.

Enforcement being difficult, however, is totally a thing. Discrimination isn't wholly gone or anything...it's just hidden from view. There are totally people who won't rent to a given race. They just don't advertise that. Instead, they have an interview, and decide not to rent to you. They might cite some reason. They might not. They just don't give the real reason. Hiring, same same. It's very difficult in many situations to prove this unless the discriminating party seriously made an error.


Right, and there are studies done to measure this-most famously, resume studies have been done where a large number of employers get sent duplicate resumes with sterotypically white and black names(pick a large number of employers, send half of them the resumes with white names and half the resumes with black names, balanced for field and type of job of course) and it does seem that the people with black names tend to take longer to get callbacks. So there is some intentional or unintentional discrimination going on in the hiring market.

As for the landlord discussion-it seems like there might be a cultural miscommunication here as most of the landlords OP mentions are talking about living with renters or renting to people when they own a specific unit they're not using. In the US this is not terribly common except in fairly limited situations like sublets(where you just need a short-term tenant for your apartment if you're going away and need to recoup some of the rent; usually this happens with group apartments where one person is they are going away for a summer or if you need to save on money by sharing a room) or some kind of live-in job(nanny, au pair, etc), In those situations it is not an issue to specify who you want to rent to since you do have a direct interest in the issue-a hindu would have no problem stipulating that they only want to rent their spare room to vegetarians, for instance, since they have good reason to keep people from cooking lots of meat in their kitchen. Most house rentals in the US are in large buildings or complexes with absentee landlords(who generally have no direct interest in who is renting as long as the rent is paid on time and the building remains inhabitable), and home ownership is also much more common it seems. So you got a lot more people who can't get rentals or buy homes in certain areas even if they would be perfectly qualified tenants otherwise because of "property values"* or who lived in neighborhoods that were cut off from access to a lot of federal funds).

EDIT: Just to make clear, in the years after WWII leading up to the Civil Rights Act, "property values" became somewhat of a shibboleth for racial discrimination in housing-people would justify not selling homes to African-American families on the grounds that it would depress property values.

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby leady » Wed Aug 05, 2015 8:45 am UTC

dg61 wrote:Right, and there are studies done to measure this-most famously, resume studies have been done where a large number of employers get sent duplicate resumes with sterotypically white and black names(pick a large number of employers, send half of them the resumes with white names and half the resumes with black names, balanced for field and type of job of course) and it does seem that the people with black names tend to take longer to get callbacks. So there is some intentional or unintentional discrimination going on in the hiring market.


Having seen the consequences of when an employee plays "the card" I can well believe the results of these studies, but I just don't share the belief in the rationale in the majority of cases.

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby jseah » Wed Aug 05, 2015 11:23 am UTC

dg61 wrote:<...>As for the landlord discussion-it seems like there might be a cultural miscommunication here as most of the landlords OP mentions are talking about living with renters or renting to people when they own a specific unit they're not using.

Actually, this is the common practice here. Buy to let is a very common practice where people just own an extra one or two apartments they find a renter for on their own.

dg61 wrote:Most house rentals in the US are in large buildings or complexes with absentee landlords(who generally have no direct interest in who is renting as long as the rent is paid on time and the building remains inhabitable), and home ownership is also much more common it seems.

In most cases, the landlord directly owns a single apartment that they are renting out. They may not necessarily stay together with the tenant but a landlord who owns and lets out an entire building is rare.

If you are looking to rent a room for short stays, then sure, companies do exist to serve that market. But looking to rent a room for six months or a year (typical contract period) would be much cheaper going to the individual owners.
Housing agents exist as a market maker, also as a filter for potentially problematic tenants (and landlords). They also serve as witnesses to the contract (usually based on a template) and do most/all of the admin work involved with making it officially legal. They often collect half a month to a month's rent on a successful deal as a fee.
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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby dg61 » Wed Aug 05, 2015 2:59 pm UTC

Yea it seems like the housing market works very differently. Buy to let is not all that common here, and large ownership is much more common(so instead of saying "I'll rent from the Malay in this unit instead of the non-Malay two units over" you could just get kept out of the entire building or even neighborhood). Housing agents do exist here although in my experience they are usually hired for home purchase rather than just renting.

EDIT: It does seem like there's some other cultural confusion type stuff at work here both as far as housing markets go(also expatriates tending to behave terribly or at least for some expatriates to act in ways they couldn't get away with at home) and in terms of what is perceived as rude. As mentioned above, for instance, it's quite common to filter out potentially bad tenants by asking for a reference(s) or proof of ability to pay rent(letter that one is being supported, some evidence of income or bank statement) so your parents would not need to worry as much about discriminating against potential tenants or not if they can just stick to things that actually have a bearing on ability to pay. There's also some stuff about what is perceived as rude here-for example in the US being indirect about things is generally seen as passive-aggressive and more likely to lead to misunderstandings("if you are renting, ask upfront about everything that you may or may not have to pay for so you don't get any nasty surprises like thinking utilities are covered when they aren't or finding out that the previous tenants are keeping the dishwasher when they move"). By the way, what are Singaporean attitudes about eye contact out of curiosity? I find that is often something that crops up a lot in perceptions of rudeness-in some societies excessive eye contact is considered rude or challenging while in others not making eye contact is perceived as rude and a sign that you're not paying attention to someone.

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby jseah » Thu Aug 06, 2015 12:53 am UTC

Eye contact? Uh. I don't think that could be a problem. We do make eye contact when talking you know?

I think perhaps another difference is that the renters are very different. When I think of a typical tenant, I think of a expatriate, with or without family, looking to stay in Singapore because they have a job here and need somewhere to stay for two years. Usually these sorts earn good money and pay rents of around 2 to 3k per month.

Another common renter is the Singaporean family who is between houses, which depending on the housing market, could also be looking to stay for 2+ years.

What sort of renter do you think of in the US?
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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby dg61 » Thu Aug 06, 2015 2:15 am UTC

Eh I was thinking of eye contact as an example of something you would probably never notice intentionally but can still affect a lot of social signaling. As for typical renters, it can really vary but basically either "people who want to live in a central city but can't afford to buy or don't have much reason to buy"(this can mean working-class but it can also cover very well-off people given that housing prices in desirable urban neighborhoods tend to be stratospheric) or "people who don't plan on being in the same place longer than a few years"(whether because they plan on moving around a lot or whatever). It's very common for people to work their way up and not actually buy a house until they're in their early or mid-30s, or whatever the equivalent "married for a few years and seriously thinking about having kids" age is in their part of the country" The last category I think you see a lot of is empty nesters who have sent their kids out into the world and want to live in an apartment because it's smaller and there are fewer upkeep costs. So similar categories to your examples of the expatriate but think much more universal. Most people are renting for most of their 20s and maybe early 30s regardless of social status, and some people might rent longer.

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Re: Disparate Impact and Fair Housing Act (1968)

Postby jseah » Thu Aug 06, 2015 1:09 pm UTC

The young single worker is also a common renter here. Of course, the locals here are Chinese.

The thing is that Singapore has a lot of expatriate workers. Enough to drive an entire housing market all by themselves. I think the number of permanent residents + foreigners in Singapore is more than 50% of the citizen count...
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