Name Discrimination in Sweden

Swedish researchers Mahmood Arai and Peter Skogman Thoursie have found that “immigrants to Sweden earn more money after they change their foreign-sounding names.”

They tracked the earnings of hundreds of African, Asian and Slavic immigrants in Sweden who “changed their names to be ethnically neutral or a bit more Swedish-sounding” between 1991 and 2000.

After their name changes, these immigrants saw an average earnings increase of 141%.

The researchers believe the immigrants were able to land more job interviews and, as a result, increase their employment opportunities. “Employers might sort out the applicants with foreign-sounding names due to [notions] about abilities and characteristics assumed to be associated with such names.”

The study, which focused on surnames, was published in the Journal of Labor Economics in 2009.

Source: What’s in a name? Perhaps more (or less) money (via Does your name affect your salary?)

More posts on name discrimination in the workplace: Butchering the Name Sangita, At Work, Do Sexy Names Help or Hinder?, Name Discrimination at Elite Firms?, Ethnic/Black Names and the Job Hunt, Asians in New Zealand Change Names to Get Jobs, Could Your Name Prevent You from Getting a Job?, The Best Name for the Job

4 thoughts on “Name Discrimination in Sweden

  1. On the subject of name discrimination and changing your name to reduce it, here’s a tidbit I learned from my research (sources available if you’re interested) to know when an employer (not necessarily another party like the government where the info remains confidential) asks for something like other names you’ve been known by: In many areas of the U.S., for reasons of potential discrimination, the only such names they need to know about are those which records they may want to check appear under (for example if they need to contact a former employer or references, verify a degree, or check your criminal history). In other words, if your name has been legally changed and everything the company would care about is under your new name, you do not need to bring up that your name was changed (realistically this would probably be the case only if your name was changed pre-adulthood or you’ve gone out of your way to update your records and ALL the applicable institutions have acknowledged your request). However, if anything they want to check is under another name you’d need to mention it (even if the former name may indicate something discrimination-worthy) or else the background check may fail. (Conversely if for example you have published work-related content under a pseudonym, or you have criminal history under an alias, you’d need to mention such names if asked although never your “legal” name.)

    I did this research when a transgender person asked me about the situation (in that case it’s crucial to minimize references to the original name for obvious reasons). I also brought this up on another name blog a few weeks ago when (the original blog discussion was asking about someone seeking a new name) someone commented who had a pre-adulthood name change and the blogger thought you ought to mention such a name even though it’s not relevant (her logic was that omitting such a name was akin to not filling the form out accurately). I told her that for job purposes (with a few exceptions such as security clearances where they trace you back to birth) her logic is incorrect (that if for example you were adopted as a child your birth name is irrelevant to an employer contrary to what she said).

  2. Typo correction: In the last sentence of the first paragraph in my comment, I omitted some phrasing; if you didn’t figure it out, what I meant is even though said names were never your “legal” name if records are under the name you’d need to mention it if asked. From the way it came out it sounded like you’d never need to mention your “legal” name (which is false).

  3. Nancy – Another point I’d like to mention is in most places this is not an actual law, but rather how based on discrimination rulings there are certain topics that prospective employers should not ask about and if possible the prospective employee can answer in a way that tells the employer what legal information they’re probably trying to ask. Other examples are if you’re asked where you were born, you can simply state that you’re authorized to work in the U.S.; another one is if they ask about your family (pre-hire) you can mention that you can meet the requisite work schedule. In the case of the transgender I advised, I mentioned that if you feel like covering yourself if asked you can say that nothing relevant is under any other name (although as I said it’s generally not necessary to touch on irrelevant former names).

    Like I said, unless you can retroactively change all relevant records, this probably won’t apply to most who change their name as an adult (unless it’s right when they come of age or they’ve just immigrated to the country) whether it’s marriage, personal reasons, or something else.

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