A new study by Jeffrey Grogger, the Irving Harris Professor in Urban Policy in the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, found that speech patterns strongly affect a person’s wages, particularly for African Americans. The study found that workers with racially and regionally distinctive speech patterns earn lower wages compared to those who speak in the mainstream.
Dr. Grooger found that “for African Americans, speech-related wage differences are not explained by family background, location or personality traits. Rather, members of the Black community who speak in a mainstream dialect work in jobs that involve intensive interactions with others, and those jobs tend to pay more.” African Americans who speak with what are perceived as mainstream accents sort into jobs that involve intensive interactions with customers and coworkers — and earn a sizable wage premium in jobs including lawyers, psychologists, dietitians, and social workers.
Professor Grogger notes social psychologists have shown that both African American and White listeners routinely rate African American Vernacular English speakers lower than Standard American English speakers in terms of socioeconomic status, intelligence and even personal attractiveness. These perceptions can impact employment opportunities and wages.
The study, “Speech and Wages,” was published in the Journal of Human Resources. It may be accessed here.