We measure and analyze discriminatory behavior against same-sex couples trying to rent an apartment in Portugal. This is the first correspondence field experiment investigating discrimination against this minority group in Portugal, adding to a literature using this method to ascertain discriminatory behavior in the housing market.
In our experiment, four type of applicants varying in gender (male and female) and modality (same and opposite sex) reply to Internet ads to express interest in renting an apartment in the metropolitan areas of Porto and Lisbon. All applicant couples are presented as married, stable and professional.
The main finding is that male same-sex couples face significant discrimination: The probability of getting a positive reply is 7–8 percentage points, or 26 percent, lower for them compared to opposite-sex couples. The effect is even more negative in parishes where the population is older, and discrimination increases in magnitude over the rental value and the square meter price of apartments.
However, and perhaps surprisingly, the risk of discrimination decreases with religiosity (up to a point) and the distance to the metropolitan center (up to a point). The results for female same-sex couples also show a sizable negative effect, with a 3 percentage-point, or 10 percent, lower probability of a positive response compared to opposite-sex couples, even though this difference is less precisely estimated.
The present study extends the literature to a southern European setting and validates previous research documenting worse treatment of same-sex couples in the housing market. Interestingly, in spite of less positive attitudes to same-sex couples among the Portuguese public, the level of discrimination is comparable to that found in Sweden and lower than on the Irish short-term rental market. This arguably illustrates that attitudes and discriminatory behavior need not be closely aligned.