Last Name Selection in Audit Studies

Charles Crabtree, Volha Chykina

Sociological Science, January 11, 2018
DOI 10.15195/v5.a2

In this article, we build on Gaddis (2017a) by illuminating a key variable plausibly related to racial perceptions of last names—geography. We show that the probability that any individual belongs to a race is conditional not only on their last name but also on surrounding racial demographics. Specifically, we demonstrate that the probability of a name denoting a race varies considerably across contexts, and this is more of a problem for some names than others. This result has two important implications for audit study research: it suggests important limitations for (1) the generalizability of audit study findings and (2) for the interpretation of geography-based conditional effects. This means that researchers should be careful to select names that consistently signal racial groups regardless of local demographics. We provide a slim R package that can help researchers do this.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Charles Crabtree: Department of Political Science, University of Michigan

Volha Chykina: Department of Education Policy Studies, Pennsylvania State University

Acknowledgements: We thank Holger L. Kern for his extremely helpful comments. All data and computer code necessary to replicate the results in this analysis are available at

  • Citation: Crabtree, Charles, and Volha Chykina. 2018. “Last Name Selection in Audit Studies.” Sociological Science 5: 21-28.
  • Received: November 2, 2017
  • Accepted: November 11, 2017
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Gabriel Rossman
  • DOI: 10.15195/v5.a2

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