Labor Market Discrimination

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American labor markets have serious problems in regards to the length of the average work day, maternity leaves, healthcare and benefits; but also discrimination. It is no surprise that discrimination occurs in the work place; but what is a surprise is that discrimination occurs much sooner than thought. A study conducted by University of Chicago professor, Marianne Bertrand, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, Sendhil Mullainathan, concluded that discrimination begins before the interview, and starts with the job seeker’s name.
The study consisted of 5000 fictitious resumes sent out to over 1300 job opportunities in Chicago and Boston. The resumes were highly diversified, some of high quality, some of low quality, some with “White-sounding” names, and some with “Black-sounding” names. The conclusion of the study was no surprise; as white-sounding names received superior results. Whether conscious or not, employers do discriminate based on ethnicity. White-sounding names are 50% more likely to receive a call back from employers than Black-sounding names, regardless of the type of occupation being pursued. High-level occupations, -the managerial and executive category- showed the lowest racial gap of only 33%! The highest racial gap of 64% occurred in low-level jobs. Oftentimes, these were “equal opportunity employers.” Furthermore, discrimination is even greater for African-American females than it is for African-American males. “The lowest scoring callback rate of black female names was 6.1 percentage points behind the lowest scoring white female name.” Many blame labor market discrimination as the cause to why African-Americans are almost twice as likely to be unemployed than White Americans. It could also be why African-Americans earn an average of 25% less than White Americans.
Many variables were tested in addition to the ethnicity projected by the job seeker’s name. Findings to the examination concluded that resumes with better credentials and less “gaps” improved the call back rate by 30% of White-sounding names, but did not do so at all for Black-sounding names. They also tested the effects of the job seeker’s address. Data shows that living in a better, more White-sounding neighborhood (more educated, higher income), is beneficial for White-sounding names, but is not helpful for Black-sounding names.
Human Resource workers often use the “De-selection Process”, which is a strategy used to filter resumes and applications. They do this to separate the preferable resumes from the non-desirable ones. Oftentimes, whether conscious or not, this includes the removal of Black or foreign-sounding names. Kimberly Wilson, who holds a position in Human Resources, often utilizes the de-selection process.
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