Job Applicants With ‘Black Names’ Still Less Likely to Get Interviews
(Bloomberg) -- Two decades ago, a landmark study showed job applicants with “Black-sounding” names were less likely to hear back from employers. In 18 years, despite a boom in unconscious bias training and diversity initiatives, that largely hasn’t changed.
Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Chicago sent 83,000 fictitious applications for entry-level job postings to 108 Fortune 500 employers, using randomly assigned and racially distinctive names. They found that distinctively Black names on applications with reduced the likelihood of hearing back from an employer by 2.1 percentage points relative to distinctively White names.
But differences in contact rates varied substantially across firms. About 20% of the companies were responsible for roughly half of the discriminatory behavior in the experiment, according to the working paper recently published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
“Racial discrimination appears to be widespread among the jobs posted by these firms,” wrote authors Patrick Kline and Christopher Walters of Berkeley and Evan Rose of Chicago.
In 2003, University of Chicago economist Marianne Bertrand and Harvard economics professor Sendhil Mullainathan carried out a similar experiment, and found that fictitious applicants with White-sounding names received 50% more callbacks for interviews than their counterparts with Black-sounding names. That study was smaller-scale and more local, based on responses to 1,300 help-wanted ads in Boston and Chicago newspapers. Because probabilities are expressed differently in the two papers, their results are hard to compare directly.
The latest findings come in the midst of a boom in corporate bias training and diversity pledges spurred by last summer’s nationwide protests against racism. Hiring of diversity chiefs at major U.S. corporations jumped in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Still, many U.S. firms lag in diverse representation in their management and workforces.
The authors of the new study said that having fewer people responsible for contacting job applicants results in less discrimination on the basis of race or gender when it comes to who gets called back. But they noted that “such changes may also simply postpone discrimination to a later stage of the hiring process.’’
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