A new to study of the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that systemic racial discrimination during the job application process still occurs.
Researchers sent over 80,000 bogus applications for entry-level positions to Fortune 500 companies and found that on average, applicants with typically black names were about 10% less likely to be recalled than comparable candidates with typically white names.
A significant portion of the hiring discrimination documented in the study was associated with a small portion of the 108 companies, according to Evan rose, Saieh Family Research Fellow at the University of Chicago and co-author of the study.
“We find that the top 20% of companies we studied here explained about half of the total discrimination against black applicants in our study,” Rose said in an interview with David Brancaccio of “Marketplace Morning Report.” “This is highly concentrated in a small part of the employers. “
Below is an edited transcript of Rose’s conversation with Brancaccio, with details on which industries experience hiring discrimination, how bias targets gender names as well, and more.
David Brancaccio: How many of these bogus applications did your team send?
Eva Rose: By the end of the day, we had sent about 84,000 applications to over 100 large American employers. So you can think of this as sending a pair of resumes where everything about resumes was matched, their work experience or their education, but one resume can have a name like Emily or Greg, and another resume can have a name. like Leticia or Jamal, and we’re measuring how much less likely the employer is to recall Leticia or Jamal than Emily or Greg, as well as, by the way, the difference in recall rates between Emilys and Gregs. So we can try to measure both racial and gender discrimination, signaling these characteristics to employers with these distinctive first names.
Brancaccio: And when all was said and done, did you find any evidence of what many would call systemic discrimination?
Pink: Yes, it’s true. So on average there is a pretty significant penalty, around 10%, for applying for a job with a typically black name. But what’s really interesting is that we find that this penalty varies tremendously among the 100 or so large US employers in our study. And in fact, we find that the top 20% of companies we studied here account for about half of the total discrimination against black applicants in our study. It is highly concentrated in a small proportion of employers. And it’s actually even more true for the gender, where, on average, we find no difference in contact rates for distinctly male and female names. But we find that this masks a bunch of differences between companies. Some companies have a very strong preference for recalling male names. Other companies have a fairly strong preference for recalling female names. Thus, discrimination based on sex is also highly concentrated in a small proportion of companies.
Brancaccio: And just to have us lean on that just for another moment, so that people don’t miss it, the worst actors, according to your data, are a big part of the problem.
Pink: Absolutely, yes, it is this top quintile of companies, this relatively small share of companies that explains most of the discrimination that we measure in the experiment. And these are, again, large American employers. You know them and love them, at least I buy regularly with them. And unfortunately, it seems that there are patterns of discrimination prevalent in their establishments. And one thing we show in the paper is that in fact it appears that at least 20% of the actual jobs we applied to at these companies discriminated on the basis of race. So that’s absolutely what the EEOC, or the [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission], would call a model or systemic practice of discrimination.
Brancaccio: So I’m on the edge of my seat here. Name some names. Who is wrong, who is well?
Pink: So we are thinking about what to do with the identity of these companies. But we want to make sure that we go through an academic peer review, engage with our partners in the civil rights community and in government to try to make sure that we can make the most of this information.
Brancaccio: Okay, so you think about it. It is a process. Are you going to tell that to the companies most at fault?
Pink: It’s a possibility. We could share this information directly with the public or with the government or with the companies themselves. But again, you know, I think that’s sort of the second step – the first step here in this research was just to figure out this fundamental scientific question of whether or not companies matter. And our answer to that is definitely yes. And now you’re right. And we’re excited to think about what you could do with the actual information on discrimination from some companies.
Brancaccio: Are you seeing industry trends, such as certain types of businesses doing better or worse?
Pink: Yes, the industry turns out to be quite important and much more important than other factors that we think could be important, such as geography and job title. It is interesting to note that companies in the automotive sector – companies that sell both cars and auto parts – many of the companies we studied in these sectors have very large stroke deviations, as well as companies in a kind of more general retail and catering services. Interestingly, companies in engineering services, health services, and accommodation seem to discriminate much less on the basis of race. And for genre, what we’re seeing is that the industry models are again very strong and sort of closely match what you might think of as more gender stereotypical industries. For example, in heavy industries, such as the wholesale of durable goods and building materials, companies seem to prefer recalling our male candidates. In clothing, we see a very strong preference for recalling our candidates. There is therefore also a strong distortion of the industry.
Brancaccio: Do you hope that this type of data can be used to suppress this form of discrimination?
Pink: Yes, I mean, what we’re showing here is that the identity of the company matters, and even within an industry like the automotive sector, some companies seem to be showing a lot more or a lot less of discrimination than others. And this suggests to us that policies, practices, corporate structure [and] the organization could potentially matter. And if we started to take a closer look at what these companies are doing differently, you know, maybe we could identify some of these policies and practices that could help prevent or remedy this kind of discrimination in the future.