The biostatistician behind the Peabody Award-winning racial discrimination investigation

The investigative project by Newsday, Long Island Divided, which explored racial discrimination in home buying on Long Island, New York, won a Peabody Award for Public Service Investigative Journalism, one of the highest honors in media. The award was announced on June 10.

The award-winning team includes Isabel Elaine Allen, PhD, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in the UCSF School of Medicine, who served as the statistical expert, designed the study and did much of the analysis.

“I think this shows what a statistician can do to help combat racial discrimination,” said Allen.

Long Island Divided considers racial inequality and systemic racism by realtors in New York. In its three-year investigation of housing discrimination, Newsday sent testers of different races with hidden cameras to meet with real estate agents.

The results revealed unequal treatment to Asians (in 19% of the time), Hispanics (39%) and nearly half of Black people (49%). Potential homebuyers were steered to neighborhoods based on race and some agents treated buyers of different races differently, such as requiring mortgage pre-approval from Black customers but not White ones.

"I’m grateful this work can shed a light on the blatant racism and discrimination people of color continue to face in this country every day,” said Allen.

The series led state and local officials to call for investigations and propose a number of reforms including a change proposed by the NY State Assembly introducing bills to change the way realtors are licensed and the National Board of Realtors has instituted broad changes to their evaluation of realtors.

“This is certainly the most impactful research I have ever done,” said Allen.