Hiring Bias Blacks And Latinos Face Hasn't Improved In 25 Years
When I recently wrote of a study that showed Black and Latino median wealth could hit zero by the middle of this century, some people contacted me through social media and insisted it was the fault of those whose wealth was on the decline. All you need do is work hard enough — improve yourself through education, insist on finding opportunities — and things will get better, these people said.
It is true that you have to work for what you want. Ultimately, you can't depend on the kindness of strangers, to deploy a twist on the Tennessee Williams line. If discrimination becomes the rationale for not trying, you have to blame yourself as well.
However, people badly misuse this concept and assume that no one gets the short end of the stick and that you can't work hard and still not get ahead. It's a way of absolving themselves and social systems from blame. They want to convince themselves that all they have came only from their own efforts in a perfectly competitive system and nothing else.
The truth, based on lots of data over years, is that if you're Black or Latino in the U.S., you get far from an equal shake. Your efforts have to be longer, stronger, and chances are you still will be treated worse. The deck gets stacked against you even as you try mightily and then people throw the results in your face.
The most recent evidence of this is a recent meta-study, which means a review of multiple studies, by researchers at Northwestern, in Chicago; Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and the Institute of Social Research in Oslo, Norway. Hiring discrimination against Blacks hasn't changed in the last 25 years. Latinos have seen only a moderate drop in discrimination against them.
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Over the years, studies have regularly and repeatedly tested for racial bias in hiring. The researchers pulled together 28 studies from 1989 on (a time when field experiments on the topic became more common), which included 55,842 applicants for 26,326 jobs.
Since 1989, whites receive on average 36% more callbacks than blacks, and 24% more callbacks than Latinos. We observe no change in the level of hiring discrimination against African Americans over the past 25 years, although we find modest evidence of a decline in discrimination against Latinos. Accounting for applicant education, applicant gender, study method, occupational groups, and local labor market conditions does little to alter this result. 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.
Your race has an enormous impact on your chance of an employer being willing to even consider you for a job. There are a number of implications:
Fewer callbacks mean lower chances of finding a job.
If many employers are willing to discriminate in considering someone for a job, you might reasonably wonder if compensation offers will be equivalent, on the average. (You'd be right. More on that in a bit.)
Fewer callbacks likely translate into fewer offers. Fewer offers give an applicant fewer choices to find the best available job.
Fewer offers mean less leverage in negotiations because you have fewer options.
If you are Black or Latino, you have to work harder just to get an interview, even if you are as well-qualified as White candidates.
Getting a college education, which many people tout as the grand solution for inequality, doesn't mean things improve that much. Blacks and Latinos, even well educated, face adverse conditions that oppose the growth of wealth, according to researchers at the Center for Household Financial Stability of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
The wealth gap increases by race as you compare Blacks and Whites with advanced college degrees. Black and Latino students are more likely to need education loans than Whites, and the more education, the more loans are needed, which means higher debt. The financial impacts makes Blacks and Latinos put off steps for growing wealth, including marriage, buying a home, and saving for retirement. College-educated Whites are more likely to receive financial assistance from their parents. Black college-educated people are more likely to provide financial assistance to their families.
Erik Sherman writes about business, technology, economics, and public policy. You can follow him on Twitter or LinkedIn.