Patterns of othering minority groups in telephone gatekeeping encounters in the Sheffield property market
Keywords:UK housing market, gatekeeping, accent and name discrimination, rapport management, service encounters
Research into housing discrimination has pointed out the pivotal role of estate agents as gatekeepers to the housing market. Telephone mystery shopping experiments were carried out with British estate agents to investigate how different British majority and minority groups – indexed by accented speech and ethnic personal names – are treated in those housing gatekeeping encounters. While there was little evidence for overt discrimination, linguistic micro-analyses of the data revealed differential treatment of ethnic majority and minority groups during the call procedure. The differential treatment was found in the estate agents’ call handling behaviours and related to the degree of personalisation of the service encounter in the form of either giving or withholding opportunities for rapport building with the caller. The findings show that ethnolinguistic discrimination in estate agents’ service provision affects the gatekeeping process independently of its outcome, with implications for the notion of equitable access to services and community participation in the United Kingdom.
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