A new meta-analysis examining hiring bias in the US challenges the idea that racial bias against job seekers of color is diminishing. The analysis, conducted by Northwestern University researchers, examined nearly 56,000 applications submitted for more than 26,000 job openings.
Between 1990 and 2015, the analysis found there was no change in hiring discrimination against African Americans. White applicants received 36% more callbacks than black applicants and 24% more callbacks than Latinos.
Lincoln Quillian, a sociology professor and a fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University and lead researcher of the study, explains the findings, the role of implicit bias in hiring discrimination, and what employers and policymakers can do to decrease racial hiring bias.
What prompted you and your team to research this?
We were really interested in whether there was a change over time in the level of discrimination. Studies had pretty consistently found discrimination against black job seekers with identically strong résumés to white jobseekers. And I realized there were enough of the studies done over time for us to look at whether there was a time trend of discrimination.
What were some of the traits researchers used to distinguish between candidates’ race and ethnicity?
The vast majority of studies used names to do so – “Lakisha” and “Jamal” versus “Emily” or “Brandon” would be the kind of names that signal race and ethnicity. They found out that Emily and Brandon get significantly more callbacks for job interviews than Lakisha and Jamal do.
A few studies do put on an HBCU [historically black college or university] or some kind of mention of them in the Black Students Association or something like that as a kind of additional signal of race or ethnicity. Some studies used in-person applications by trained tester pairs of white and black applicants. In these studies, race or ethnicity was indicated by appearance.