Black Job Seekers May Be More Likely to Receive Lower Salaries as a Result of Negotiation Bias

A recent study led by Morela Hernandez of the Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia has found that African American job candidates are more likely to receive lower starting salaries when evaluators believe they have been too aggressive in hiring negotiations.

In one experiment, participants were randomly assigned to view one of two online resumes that differed in the photo of a Black male or White male job applicant. After viewing the resume, participants were asked to estimate the likelihood that the job seeker would negotiate his salary offer, and then asked to complete a survey about their own beliefs relating to racial bias. The results showed that more racially biased participants expected the African-American applicant would negotiate less. This was not true among those evaluators who were judged to be less biased.

A second experiment included working adults and undergraduate students. Participants were randomly paired up and assigned to be either a job candidate or hiring evaluator. They were then given 15 minutes for a face-to-face negotiation over a salary with a range of $82,000 to $90,000. The results found that while White and African-American job candidates negotiated roughly the same amount, evaluators who had been judged to be more racially biased believed African-Americans negotiated more than their White counterparts. Each time a Black candidate was perceived to have made another offer or counter offer, he or she received, on average, $300 less in starting salary.

Dr. Hernandez, the lead author of the study, believes these findings could help explain the serious wage gap faced by African Americans today. According to the Pew Research Center, college-educated Black men make 80 percent of the hourly wages of their White peers.

“Racially biased people often believe negative stereotypes that characterize African American job seekers as less qualified or motivated than White applicants,” Hernandez said. “Those stereotypes can have serious repercussions for African Americans who choose to negotiate their starting salaries.”

The full study, “Bargaining While Black: The Role of Race in Salary Negotiations,” was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. It may be accessed here.

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