Study Finds Less Name-Based Hiring Bias…Maybe

resumeA recent study by University of Missouri researchers Cory Koedel and Rajeev Darolia found that resumes featuring black-sounding and Hispanic-sounding names were “just as likely to lead to callbacks and job interviews” as those featuring white-sounding names.

The catch?

The study focused on applicant surnames, not first names.

Washington and Jefferson were used to represent African American applicants, Anderson and Thompson to represent white applicants, and Hernandez and Garcia to represent Hispanic applicants.

For the first two groups, forenames were used to signify gender only. Chloe and Ryan were used for the African American applicants, Megan and Brian for the white applicants.

But for the Hispanic applicants, called either Isabella or Carlos, forenames also signified ethnicity.

Why did the researchers do it this way?

Because they wanted to avoid stereotypically black-sounding first names like Lakisha and Jamal, which they felt were too strongly tied to socioeconomic status to get a clear reading on racial bias.

Which is a fair point, though…can surnames alone convey race all that well? Would a hiring manager really assume that an applicant with the surname Jefferson was black while another with the surname Thompson was white?

Though I’d love to see proof that hiring discrimination is on the wane in the U.S., I’m not sure how convincing a surname-focused study can be in this regard. (I do find the part about Hispanic names encouraging, though.)

What’s your opinion?

Sources: Hiring bias study: Resumes with black, white, Hispanic names treated the same, An Updated Analysis of Race and Gender Effects on Employer Interest in Job Applicants (PDF)

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