The book "Freakonomics", Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, 2005, page 186, the link (the original is with "would"):

So how does it matter if you have a very white name or a very black name? Over the years, a series of “audit studies” have tried to measure how people perceive different names. In a typical audit study, a researcher used to / would send two identical (and fake) résumés, one with a traditionally white name and the other with an immigrant or minority-sounding name, to potential employers. The “white” résumés have always gleaned more job interviews.

I was told that "used to" sounds bad here or even, for some, doesn't work at all. But I have never understood why it is so. Could you elucidate in detail what "would" means here and why we shouldn't use "used to" instead? Thanks!

2 Answers 2


"used to" implies two things: That the behavior happened over an extended period of time, and that it is no longer applicable.

In your example, it's something that only happens during the length of a specific audit study. So you might might say, "We used to do audit studies like that." This implies that there were probably many studies over several years, and they have stopped. "In one of those studies, I would use this technique." Since any given study was limited in time, the researcher "would" send out example resumes. It might only take an hour to send out the resumes if you had them all prepared. Would is used when there is some kind of scope or conditional. When I played basketball, I would lose. If I had a million dollars, I would pay someone to sing me a song.

If the studies are still ongoing, you could say something like, "We have done many studies." Unlike "used to," this doesn't imply that they necessarily stopped. If the studies are ongoing, then saying that they "used to send out resumes" implies that there is some new technique in the studies that is used instead of sending out resumes.


You were told wrong. They mean the same thing here.

For example: - He would go to work early every morning. =

  • He used to go to work early every morning.

would is often used in past tense narration for habitual action.

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