“Black Sounding” Names Continue to Be a Disadvantage in the Job Market

Twenty years ago, a ground-breaking study found that people with names generally thought to be Black who submitted resumes to employers were less likely to be contacted for the job interviews compared to people with similar qualifications who had names that did not lead employers to believe the applicant was Black.

Now a new study led by Martin Abel, an assistant professor of economics at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, finds that not much has changed over the past two decades. Conducting an incentivized hiring experiment with real worker data, the researchers found that participants were 30 percentage points more likely to hire workers perceived to be White compared to Black.

Most real-world hiring managers spend less than 10 seconds reviewing each resume during the initial screening stage. To keep up that swift pace, they may resort to using mental shortcuts – including racial stereotypes – to assess job applications. The current study found that participants systematically discriminated against job candidates with names they associated with Black people, especially when put under time pressure. The race gap in hiring increases by 25 percent when employers are forced to make quick decisions.

The authors also found that White people who oppose affirmative action discriminated more than other people against job candidates with distinctly Black names, whether or not they had to make rushed decisions.

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