Racist Employment Practices in a Recession

The New York Times has a useful article touching on some recent research on discrimination in employment against black workers with college degrees:

College-educated black men, especially, have struggled relative to their white counterparts in this downturn, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate for black male college graduates 25 and older in 2009 has been nearly twice that of white male college graduates — 8.4 percent compared with 4.4 percent. Various academic studies have confirmed that black job seekers have a harder time than whites. A study published several years ago in The American Economic Review titled “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?” found that applicants with black-sounding names received 50 percent fewer callbacks than those with white-sounding names. A more recent study, published this year in The Journal of Labor Economics found white, Asian and Hispanic managers tended to hire more whites and fewer blacks than black managers did.

The focus seems to be just on black men. But black women also face much racial discrimination, as well as gendered-racist discrimination in workplaces, doing business, and elsewhere.

The journalist adds this about the well-educated black men featured in the article:

It is difficult to overstate the degree that they say race permeates nearly every aspect of their job searches, from how early they show up to interviews to the kinds of anecdotes they try to come up with. “You want to be a nonthreatening, professional black guy,” said Winston Bell, 40, of Cleveland, who has been looking for a job in business development

The article reports that many black men hide their racial identity in their resumes because that reduces the discrimination, at least initially, against them.

Not once in the article, however, are the main and major perpetrators of this employment discrimination, mostly white male managers and executives, featured as the central creators of this deep U.S. problem. There is a tone here and there of “they say race permeates,” which softens the analysis of racism. There is of course much evidence and research such journalists could have examined on the white racist framing in the heads of many white executives, whose racialized thinking and action out of that framing needs to be the center of such stories. Such racist practices are old, foundational, and systemic. For even the more “liberal” analysts, yet, they still mostly get presented as episodic and/or tacked on to an otherwise unproblematical society, with white perpetrators seldom problematized.

Racism in NYC Restaurant Hiring: Matched Study

A newly released matched study reveals racism in hiring patterns in New York City restaurants  (Creative Commons License photo credit: ktylerconk ).Busy lunch at Rue 57 Matched studies, like the one used in this research, are basically field experiments in which pairs of applicants who differ only by race (or sometimes gender) are sent to apply for housing, seek services or accommodations, or, in this case, apply for jobs.

In this study, economist Marc Bendick, Jr. sent pairs of applicants with similar résumés and matched for gender and appearance; the only difference in each pair was race.

Bendick found that white job applicants were more likely to receive followup interviews, be offered jobs, and given information about jobs, and their work histories were less likely to be investigated in detail than their black counterparts.

If you’re one of the many graduate students who read this blog and you’re contemplating what to do for a dissertation, consider a matched study.    We need more of them and this type of research gets well-reviewed in the top sociology journals.  Another recent matched study in sociology is the one that Devah Pager did for her 2003 AJS piece, “The Mark of a Criminal Record.” In this research, Pager matched pairs of individuals (again with similar résumés and matched on gender) applied for entry-level jobs—to formally test the degree to which a criminal record affects subsequent employment opportunities. The findings of her study reveal that a criminal record presents a major barrier to employment; and with regard to racism, Pager found that blacks are less than half as likely to receive consideration by employers, relative to their white counterparts.   Perhaps most disturbing in Pager’s research is the finding that black nonoffenders, that is African Americans with no criminal record, were less likely to get a job than whites with prior felony convictions.

Matched studies, such as the just released Bendick’s study of hiring in restaurants and Pager’s classic study of entry-level hiring of those with (and without) the mark of a criminal record, are important social science research for investigating the persistence of racial discrimination in hiring practices.