An Elite College Degree Does Not Shield Blacks From Employment Discrimination

A new stgraduation_cap_and_diploma-2091udy by S. Michael Gaddis, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Michigan School of Public Health who will begin teaching at Pennsylvania State University this coming fall, finds that African Americans who graduate from high-ranking colleges and universities have little or no advantage in the job market over White students who graduate from educational institutions that are not as highly regarded.

Dr. Gaddis, who earned a Ph.D. in sociology at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, sent in more than 1,000 job applications that were identical except names were used to signify to the employer that the applicant was either Black or White. For example, he used names such as Ebony, Shanice, and DaQuan so that the employer would guess that the applicant was Black and names such as Erica, Charlie, and Caleb so the employer would infer the applicant was White. He also said that some applicants were from elite schools such as Stanford, Duke, or Harvard while others were graduates of less selective state universities.

The results showed that White applicants from an elite university received a response from employers 18 percent of the time. Blacks from the same elite universities received a response from 13 percent of the employers, only slightly more than Whites from the less selective state universities. Blacks who were graduates of the state universities receive far fewer responses than Whites from the same state universities.

“These racial differences suggest that a bachelor’s degree, even from an elite institution, cannot fully counteract the importance of race in the labor market,” said Dr. Gaddis. “Education apparently has its limits because even a Harvard degree cannot make DaQuan as enticing as Charlie to employers.”

The full report, “Discrimination in the Credential Society: An Audit Study of Race and College Selectivity in the Labor Market,” was published in the journal Social Forces. It may be accessed here.

Related Articles


  1. Re: Dr. Gaddis;

    In my view, you study would have more validity if you would have minimally examined the job offers for Asian, Latino, and Jewish “sounding names”. Unfortunately, your research lens is very narrow in scope and it impales your ability to be intellectually honest. Further, you’re situated at the University of Michigan who had a long track record of placing the symbol of a bagel on admissions application(the top right corner) from students whose named “appeared” to be Jewish. My point of highlighting this because implicitly your research continues this soft racist tone that conveys the wrong message to your White counterparts.

    Here’s my suggestion for your next research project titled, “The intensity of American racism inflicted on “native born Blacks” by Whites regardless of name, credentials, security clearance[TSCI], military service, residence, and melanin composition(e.g., from light-skinned to dark-skinned). After your findings, then you should report your findings accordingly.

  2. Not to diminish your study. It is well on point. I would be interested in a study that looks at blacks and how they discriminate one another based on skin color as well. I think it is all how we are socialized and well these people may not be as racist as just wanting to work or work besides people who are more like them. I say this as a black man from Africa who has faced discrimination from African American people as well. In my case I think it may also be true that some blacks may discriminate against fellow blacks due to “brainwashing” and whatever you may call it too. These studies too need to be done so we can tackle the problem of ethnicity in this country. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the HR people that turned away these blacks may have been black themselves.

  3. Re: Dadedi;

    Native born Black Americans (and Africans from the Diaspora) participate in intra-racism (and tribal and group) both consciously and unconsciously. Many have been thoroughly socialized under the guise of 500 years of American and European White supremacy. It’s no more than different in the same manner in which the Ibo, Hausa, or Yoruba treat one another back in Nigeria (similar claims about other African countries).

    Regarding the disparate treatment you’ve experienced from native born Black Americans is probably not due to one sole variable such as your Nigerian Africanity. I would venture in saying that it could be due to other outstanding variables that you’re not considering. The fact remains that both native born Black Americans have been thoroughly miseducated about Africans from the continent. Similarly, Africans from the continent are thoroughly miseducated about native born Black Americans. As a result, all parties are on the receiving end of mistrust, miscommunication, and a greater chasm between one another. Unfortunately the victor in this particular battle is called White supremacy because it can continue employing the “divide and conquer” tactic while remaining at the helm.

  4. As a thirteen-year PROUD BLACK FEMALE BUSINESS OWNER with four college degrees. I feel that WE should stop going to the others for their CRUMBS be it 1) their Oscar nominations, Who’s Oscar? It doesn’t mean anything for BLACK actors that receive one every five years because they still don’t get paid anymore for receiving one, so that tells me that it’s just for show, I guess…2) WE need to CREATE our OWN RECORD LABELS, TV STUDIOS, TV NETWORKS, PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL TEAMS, JOBS (we still make less), CORPORATIONS(we don’t have any?), CONSULTING FIRMS, TV NEWS SHOWS (I watch NEWSONE NOW) 3) WE need to prepare the next generation of POLITICIANS, TEACHERS, PRINCIPALS, SUPERINTENDENTS, so that we can TEACH OUR KIDS and 4) WE need to TEACH OUR KIDS BLACK HISTORY EVERYDAY @ HOME. WE NEED TO STOP BEGGING AND CREATE OUR OWN!!!!! Until then, we’ll still be complaining and begging for their CRUMBS!!!!!!!!!! COME ON EDUCATED BLACK FOLKS WHERE YA’LL AT? Begging?

Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

In Memoriam: O. Jerome Green, 1954-2024

President of historically Black Shorter College O. Jerome Green passed way unexpectedly on April 8. Since he became president in 2012, the college has experienced record-breaking enrollment and graduation rates, created new academic programs, and established the STEM Center for Academic Excellence.

Federal Report Uncovers Lack of Faculty Diversity and Delay in Federal Discrimination Complaint Processing

In addition to a lack of diversity in higher education faculty, the report revealed a frequent delay by the Department of Education when referring discrimination complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Christopher Span Appointed Dean of Rutgers University Graduate School of Education

Dr. Span, professor of education policy, organization, and leadership at the University of Illinois, is a scholar of African American educational history. He has experience in both academic and administrative leadership positions.

Lingering Mistrust From Tuskegee Syphilis Study Connected to COVID-19 Vaccine Reluctance

African Americans who lived within 750 miles of Tuskegee, Alabama, were more reluctant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine than their White neighbors, as well as Black Americans from other United States regions. The authors attribute this finding to lingering mistrust of public health services as a result of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study which ran from the 1930s to 1972.

Featured Jobs