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Looking Māori means you are less likely to own your own home

Looking more Māori means you are less likely to own your own home

A study on home ownership rates among Māori shows that looking stereotypically Māori means you are less likely to own your own home.

A study on home ownership rates among Māori shows that looking stereotypically Māori means you are less likely to own your own home.

The research, by Dr Carla Houkamau, a senior lecturer in Management and International Business at the University of Auckland Business School, and Associate Professor Chris Sibley of the University’s School of Psychology, is part of the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Survey (NZAVS).

The questionnaire sent to 561 Maori participants on home ownership and appearance was part of the NZAVS. Respondents were asked how Māori they thought they looked and whether or not they owned their own home.

The statistical modelling approach used in the research tested against a broad range of demographic variables that might otherwise explain variation in home ownership such as education, region, age, income and relationship status.

Adjusting for these factors, looking more stereotypically Māori significantly predicted decreased rates of home ownership. People who reported a higher score on the Perceived Appearance scale – who thought they looked more Māori - were more likely not to own their own home.

“Put simply, our analyses show that the likelihood of whether or not Māori owned their own home is predicted by their physical appearance” Dr Houkamau says.

“The key in our analysis was that we measured and adjusted for as many of these other factors as we could—and when we did so, the link between looking more Maori and decreased rates of home ownership was still significant.”

These other factors may also be linked with home ownership in their own right but they don’t explain why it is that people who look more Māori are less likely to own their own home.

“The difference in home ownership rates among Māori on the basis of appearance may reflect an extremely important form of institutional racism,” says Dr Houkamau.

Associate Professor Sibley said it was important to note that respondents in the study, published in open-access Journal PLOS One, were asked to rate their own appearance and this measure was not validated independently.

“People were using their own judgements on how ‘Māori’ they looked and may have been using multiple cultural markers for that, such as traditional adornments or whether they had a Māori name.”

The finding that looking stereotypically Māori relates to poor outcomes for Māori aligns with international research that demonstrates that the way people look can have profound effects on life experiences, Associate Professor Sibley says.


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