Anti-Black Hiring Discrimination Hasn’t Improved In Nearly 30 Years, According To A New Study

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Trying to find the right job is already an anxiety-inducing process, especially when underemployment and unemployment are still a major problem for high school and college graduates hunting. Filling out applications and not hearing back is a demoralizing process, but there's something that can make getting hired even harder: Being black. Researchers from Northwestern University, Harvard, and the Institute for Social Research in Norway studied hiring discrimination research spanning more than 26 years from 1989 until 2015. They found that black job applicants experience hiring bias at the same rate as as they did in the 1980s. In comparison, discrimination against Latinx job applicants has declined modestly.

After analyzing past studies that altogether reviewed more than 56,000 job applications, researchers found white job applicants receive 36 percent more call-backs than black candidates with the same qualifications. Even though writers love penning hot takes about why America isn't racist, this report begs to differ. Even with laws banning employers from discriminating against potential employees, it still happens at a troubling rate. Per the abstract summary: "Contrary to claims of declining discrimination in American society, our estimates suggest that levels of discrimination remain largely unchanged, at least at the point of hire."

Having A Stereotypically Black Name Still Hurts Your Chances Of Getting Hired

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The researchers compared anti-discrimination studies from 1989 to present day to find out if there's been any improvement in hiring bias. They looked at resumé audits, which feature fictional candidates with similar qualifications but distinctly different names applying for the same position. The idea is that hiring managers should call back both applicants since they have the same amount of experience, but black job candidates with "racially identifiable names" got callbacks at a lower rate, and that's stayed constant since '89. Stephen Crockett Jr., senior editor at The Root, wrote an op-ed in May defending the beauty of black names. I agree with him: It's sad to know parents still have to worry about how a baby name choice could affect their kid's chances of success.

White Candidates Have An Advantage Even If A Black Candidate Doesn't Have A Distinct Name

Along with resumé audits, researchers also analyzed in-person studies. These studies usually feature volunteers who have been trained to act as similar as possible while applying in-person for a job. They found the same result as the resumé analysis: Black candidates are at a disadvantage when compared to white applicants who are similarly qualified, and that disadvantage hasn't changed since 1989. Because these studies try to control for any variants, it's reasonable to assume the white and Black candidates were equally deserving of invitations to interview. Still, that wasn't enough — Black people still struggle to the next round of the application process, and the rate has remained constant for more than 20 years.

Companies Still Have Work To Do When It Comes To Hiring


Some people may look at the civil rights era and think things have gotten way better, the study says, but there's still work to be done.

"Large companies increasingly recognized diversity as a goal and revamped their hiring to curtail practices that disadvantaged minority applicants," the study says. "With the election of the country’s first African-American president in 2008, many concluded that the country had finally moved beyond its troubled racial past."

But the election of Trump, who the study says "highlighted the persistence of racial resentment," along with the fact that employers are still reluctant to hire black people, shows that racism is still prevalent, especially during the job hunt. Thankfully, things have gotten better for Latinx job seekers, although they still struggle more than their white counterparts. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." This report should serve as a wake-up call for anyone who thinks racism is long-gone. American companies still have progress that needs to be made.