80,000 Fake Resumes Sent to 97 Large Organizations – What Happened? - American Society of Employers - Anthony Kaylin

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80,000 Fake Resumes Sent to 97 Large Organizations – What Happened?

To test whether employers discriminate against job applicants based on perceived race based on names, economists with the University of California Berkeley and University of Chicago sent out about 80,000 fabricated resumes to 97 large employers using equivalent qualifications but different personal characteristics during the period of 2019-2021. They changed applicants’ names to suggest that they were white or Black, and male or female — Latisha or Amy, Lamar or Adam.

The researchers published a paper with the National Bureau of Economic Research discussing their results and released the names of the companies they tested.

On the gender side, the researchers found that gender discrimination at the interview stage is rare and concentrated in particular industries like fashion, which showed a preference for women over men.

However, they found employers contacted presumed white applicants 9.5% more often than presumed black applicants.  They found that AutoNation, a used car retailer, contacted presumed white applicants 43% more often, and Genuine Parts Company, which sells auto parts including under the NAPA brand, called presumed white candidates 33% more often.  Does that mean the companies were practicing discrimination?  Out of context it may seem so, and there may be follow-up by the EEOC, local discrimination agencies, or resourceful plaintiff attorneys using the study as a basis for their investigations and lawsuit.

What makes this worse is that the researchers stated specifically that “[m]any of the firms in our correspondence experiment receiving poor grades turn out to be federal contractors, suggesting this information may be of help in targeting future compliance efforts.”  The Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs (OFCCP) may now change their approach to hiring analysis and ask for the actual applicant flow as opposed to accepting the summary data provided because of this research. This puts employers on notice to review their hiring process, and it will drive up compliance costs.

“I am not in the least bit surprised,” said Daiquiri Steele, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama School of Law who previously worked for the Department of Labor on employment discrimination. “If you’re having trouble breaking in, the biggest issue is the ripple effect it has. It affects your wages and the economy of your community going forward.”

There is good news.  The researchers observed a lack of racial bias in certain industries: food stores, including Kroger; food products, including Mondelez; freight and transport, including FedEx and Ryder; and wholesale, including Sysco and McLane Company.   So, it is not prevalent with all employers, it just depends on the industry, which may make certain industries more susceptible to being on an OFCCP target list for audits as well as for plaintiff attorneys.

But there is a caveat.  Larger employers tend to have more signposts in their process to reduce the opportunity of bias in the selection process.  Smaller employers may not be that sophisticated, and discrimination based on names may be wider spread.  The study may underestimate the rate of discrimination against Black applicants in the labor market as a whole because it tested large companies, which tend to discriminate less, said Lincoln Quillian, a sociologist at Northwestern who analyzes audit studies.

In a market in which there is a 3 million job shortfall and finding qualified workers is testing recruitment at its limits, names should not matter, qualifications should. Easy to say.  Employers at minimum should conduct anti-bias training for recruiters and hiring managers at the minimum to reduce the potential of discrimination based on superfluous factors such as name, race, and gender.


Source:  New York Times 4/8/24, A Discrimination Report Card by Patrick M. Kline, Evan K. Rose, and Christopher R. Walters, Working Paper 32313, National Bureau of Economic Research, http://www.nber.org/papers/w32313


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