“Just the Type with whom I Like to Work”: Two Correspondence Field Experiments in an Online Mental Health Care Market


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Two field experiments investigated discrimination in an online mental health care market. The subjects were 908 mental health care providers (MHPs) who advertise for clients on a website through which help-seekers email providers. Both studies measured MHPs’ receptiveness to an ostensibly black or white help-seeker requesting an appointment. In the first study, no racial or gender disparities were observed. However, help-seekers in the second study, who signaled lower education than those in the first, were confronted with significantly lower accessibility overall. Moreover, black help-seekers with low education and high social need (i.e., a caseworker) received significantly fewer positive responses than any other group. Although the two studies are not directly comparable, their results suggest a hierarchy of accessibility: MHPs prefer more educated help-seekers over less educated ones and among those less educated prefer black help-seekers with a caseworker the least. These disparities persist after controlling for MHPs’ sociodemographic and financial characteristics.

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