American Sociological Association

Dress Codes and Racial Discrimination in Urban Nightclubs

In recent years, sociologists and others have suggested that nightclub owners have used dress codes to covertly discriminate against African Americans and Latinos. We test this claim using experimental audit methods where matched pairs of African American, Latino, and white men attempt to enter urban nightclubs with dress codes in large metropolitan areas (N = 159). We find systematic evidence that African Americans are denied access to nightclubs more often than similarly appearing whites and (in some cases) Latinos attempting to enter the same nightclubs. The magnitude of this discrimination is similar to that observed in housing audit studies. However, we do not find evidence of unequal treatment between whites and Latinos. These findings suggest that dress codes are used to racially discriminate against African Americans, in violation of federal law.


Reuben A. Buford May and Pat Rubio Goldsmith





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