Valuing Equal Protection in Aviation Security Screening

Publication Type: 
Kenneth D. Nguyen
Heather Rosoff
Richard S. John
The growing number of anti‐terrorism policies has elevated public concerns about discrimination. Within the context of airport security screening, the current study examines how American travelers value the principle of equal protection by quantifying the “equity premium” that they are willing to sacrifice to avoid screening procedures that result in differential treatments. In addition, we applied the notion of procedural justice to explore the effect of alternative selective screening procedures on the value of equal protection. Two‐hundred and twenty‐two respondents were randomly assigned to one of three selective screening procedures: (1) randomly, (2) using behavioral indicators, or (3) based on demographic characteristics. They were asked to choose between airlines using either an equal or a discriminatory screening procedure. While the former requires all passengers to be screened in the same manner, the latter mandates all passengers undergo a quick primary screening and, in addition, some passengers are selected for a secondary screening based on a predetermined selection criterion. Equity premiums were quantified in terms of monetary cost, wait time, convenience, and safety compromise. Results show that equity premiums varied greatly across respondents, with many indicating little willingness to sacrifice to avoid inequitable screening, and a smaller minority willing to sacrifice anything to avoid the discriminatory screening. The selective screening manipulation was effective in that equity premiums were greater under selection by demographic characteristics compared to the other two procedures.