Systemic Racism Video: Employment

In the next video in the series, Jay Smooth explains the part of systemic racism known as ‘the wealth gap’ in this short (1:00) video:

The text for the video is:

Did you know that no matter what else is going on in America, year in and year out for the last 60 years, Black unemployment is always about twice as high as white unemployment? And even if you just look at Black college graduates, they’re still almost twice as likely to be unemployed as white college graduates? And if you just apply for a job with a white sounding name, you’re 50% more likely to get a callback than with a Black sounding name?

Race Forward, the producers of the video series, list several sources for the facts in the video, including a Pew Research Center report from 2013 that charts the consistent pattern of high unemployment rates for African Americans.

Unemployment Rates by Race, 1953-2013

Unemployment Rates by Race, 1953-2013 Source: Pew Research Center

If you’d like to read and learn more about employment discrimination and systemic racism in the scholarly literature see:

  • Bertrand, Marianne, and Sendhil Mullainathan. Are Emily and Greg more employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A field experiment on labor market discrimination. No. w9873. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2003. Abstract: We perform a field experiment to measure racial discrimination in the labor market. We respond with fictitious resumes to help-wanted ads in Boston and Chicago newspapers. To manipulate perception of race, each resume is assigned either a very African American sounding name or a very White sounding name. The results show significant discrimination against African-American names: White names receive 50 percent more callbacks for interviews. We also find that race affects the benefits of a better resume. For White names, a higher quality resume elicits 30 percent more callbacks whereas for African Americans, it elicits a far smaller increase. Applicants living in better neighborhoods receive more callbacks but, interestingly, this effect does not differ by race. The amount of discrimination is uniform across occupations and industries. Federal contractors and employers who list Equal Opportunity Employer’ in their ad discriminate as much as other employers. We find little evidence that our results are driven by employers inferring something other than race, such as social class, from the names. These results suggest that racial discrimination is still a prominent feature of the labor market. (OA)
  • Deitch, Elizabeth A., Adam Barsky, Rebecca M. Butz, Suzanne Chan, Arthur P. Brief, and Jill C. Bradley. “Subtle yet significant: The existence and impact of everyday racial discrimination in the workplace.” Human Relations 56, no. 11 (2003): 1299-1324. Abstract:In this article, we argue that research concerning workplace discrimination could be advanced by considering ‘everyday discrimination,’ that is, the subtle, pervasive discriminatory acts experienced by members of stigmatized groups on a daily basis. Three studies are reported which use secondary data analysis techniques to provide evidence for the existence of everyday workplace discrimination against Blacks. In addition to demonstrating the occurrence of such discrimination, evidence is presented which indicates that the experience of everyday discrimination is negatively associated with various indicators of well-being. The implications of these findings for organizations and for discrimination researchers are discussed. (locked)
  • Pager, Devah. Marked: Race, crime, and finding work in an era of mass incarceration. University of Chicago Press, 2008. Abstract: The product of an innovative field experiment, Marked gives us our first real glimpse into the tremendous difficulties facing ex-offenders in the job market. Devah Pager matched up pairs of young men, randomly assigned them criminal records, then sent them on hundreds of real job searches throughout the city of Milwaukee. Her applicants were attractive, articulate, and capable—yet ex-offenders received less than half the callbacks of the equally qualified applicants without criminal backgrounds. Young black men, meanwhile, paid a particularly high price: those with clean records fared no better in their job searches than white men just out of prison. Such shocking barriers to legitimate work, Pager contends, are an important reason that many ex-prisoners soon find themselves back in the realm of poverty, underground employment, and crime that led them to prison in the first place. (OA)

  • Pager, Devah, and Lincoln Quillian. “Walking the talk? What employers say versus what they do.American Sociological Review 70, no. 3 (2005): 355-380. Abstract:This article considers the relationship between employers’ attitudes toward hiring exoffenders and their actual hiring behavior. Using data from an experimental audit study of entry-level jobs matched with a telephone survey of the same employers, the authors compare employers’ willingness to hire black and white ex-offenders, as represented both by their self-reports and by their decisions in actual hiring situations. Employers who indicated a greater likelihood of hiring ex-offenders in the survey were no more likely to hire an ex-offender in practice. Furthermore, although the survey results indicated no difference in the likelihood of hiring black versus white ex-offenders, audit results show large differences by race. These comparisons suggest that employer surveys-even those using an experimental design to control for social desirability bias-may be insufficient for drawing conclusions about the actual level of hiring discrimination against stigmatized groups. (OA)
  • Pager, Devah, Bruce Western, and Bart Bonikowski. “Discrimination in a low-wage labor market a field experiment.” American Sociological Review 74, no. 5 (2009): 777-799. Abstract: Decades of racial progress have led some researchers and policymakers to doubt that discrimination remains an important cause of economic inequality. To study contemporary discrimination, we conducted a field experiment in the low-wage labor market of New York City, recruiting white, black, and Latino job applicants who were matched on demographic characteristics and interpersonal skills. These applicants were given equivalent résumés and sent to apply in tandem for hundreds of entry-level jobs. Our results show that black applicants were half as likely as equally qualified whites to receive a callback or job offer. In fact, black and Latino applicants with clean backgrounds fared no better than white applicants just released from prison. Additional qualitative evidence from our applicants’ experiences further illustrates the multiple points at which employment trajectories can be deflected by various forms of racial bias. These results point to the subtle yet systematic forms of discrimination that continue to shape employment opportunities for low-wage workers. (OA)

Next up, housing discrimination.