A study of home ownership rates among Māori shows that those who consider themselves to look stereotypically Māori are less likely to own their own home.
In the Auckland University study, part of the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Survey, 561 Māori participants were surveyed and asked questions about their home ownership and how Maori they felt they looked.
After taking several factors such as education, income and and relationship status into account, the researchers discovered that there was a strong correlation between those who considered themselves to look stereotypically Māori, and those who did not own their own home.
Senior lecturer in Management and International Business Carla Houkamau said the study's analyses showed that the likelihood of whether or not Māori owned their own homes could be predicted by their physical appearance.
Ms Houkamau said the difference in home ownership rates among Māori on the basis of appearance may reflect an extremely important form of institutional racism.
"Our data says if you control for everything else, how you look, your physical appearance differentiates you somehow. Now to us that's evidence of a bias in the home lending process. Now that's a historical thing we've noticed."
She said there was an understanding that a number of groups are finding it difficult to get into the housing market, but if they were Māori they might be facing another barrier, and said that the study had produced evidence of institutional racism.
"There's no two ways about it. We don't like to think that racism is a real thing in New Zealand because nobody likes to think that they are.
"Nobody wants to acknowledge that they are racist or that racism exists in our country, but there's still clear inequities between groups. Women are paid less than men for doing the same work. We've still got a gender wage gap. It's unconscious bias. It's what people do."
Co-researcher Associate Professor Chris Sibley of the University's Psychology department said that it was important to remember that respondents were asked to rate their own appearance, which meant that the measure was not validated independently.