Frequently Asked Questions

The data journalism teams of Bayerischer Rundfunk (public broadcaster/ARD) and SPIEGEL found out in an automated research process that people with foreign names are discriminated against in the rental market. Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions about our research.

Where does the data come from?

We collected the data by deploying an automated process, that sent out inquiries to housing offers on the Internet. As a second step the reply mails we received were classified in a semi-automated process as positive or negative answers. So our dataset consists of e-mails

Which ads did you respond to?

We responded to ads that appeared on the biggest German online housing portals Immobilienscout24 and Immowelt. The apartments we applied for were affordable for singles and comparable in size and price. The cities we examined were Berlin, Dortmund, Dresden, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Cologne, Leipzig, Magdeburg, Munich and Nuremberg.

Who are Hanna and Ismail?

Hanna and Ismail are two of our fictional subjects with whom we applied for the apartments. Hanna Berg stands for a German candidate, Ismail Hamed for an Arab candidate. This is a list of all our test persons:

  • Daniel Buschle, male, german
  • Nina Weiss, female, german
  • Stephan Braun, male, german
  • Hanna Berg, female, german
  • Hamit Yilmaz, male, turkish
  • Aylin Demirci, female, turkish
  • Stefano Loguercio, male, italian
  • Vittoria di Lauro, female, italian
  • Mikolaj Janowski, male, polish
  • Milena Adamowicz, female, polish
  • Ismail Hamed , male, arabic
  • Maryam Abedini, female, arabic

Apart from the name they all have the exact same preconditions: young, accurate knowledge of the German language, a fixed job in the marketing sector.

How did you evaluate the answers?

The decisive factor for us was whether our subjetcs received an invitation for a flat viewing or not. If one subject received an invitation, while another subject received a rejection or no answer for the same apartment, we classified this as discrimination.

Is there a difference between discrimination and opportunities?

Yes, there is. The discrimination rates express best the extent of discrimination against the minority groups we surveyed. The opportunity ratio, on the other hand, makes it easier to aggregate the four foreign groups and to make more detailed statements at city level. You can find a more detailed explanation in our methodology.

What did you do to remain undetected?

We had to balance out the process very carefully: on the one hand, the requests had to be comparable and sent out within a short period. On the other hand, we had to avoid the landlords to become suspicious. Therefore, we always sent out the requests at intervals of about 30 minutes with slightly varying texts.

Is discrimination based on origin against the law?

Yes, it is illegal. According to the German Equal Treatment Act, discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin is forbidden. We know of several cases in which applicants for apartements were awarded compensation by the court because they were discriminated against.

Where can I get help if I have been discriminated against?

Many German cities have anti-discrimination offices that give advise and support those affected. The German Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency provides an overview of the contact points:

If you have any questions about our research, please contact us via e-mail or on Twitter (BR Data, SPIEGEL ONLINE).