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Race and Gender May Not Affect Employer Interest in Resumes

New research finds little evidence of discrimination at the resume review stage of job application process

April 26th, 2016

Story Contact: Sheena Rice, 573-882-8353, ricesm@missouri.edu

COLUMBIA, Mo. – In 2004, research found that resumes submitted by people with distinctly sounding African-American names were less likely to get callbacks regarding the job. Now, new research from the University of Missouri finds no evidence of employer preferences for applicants from a particular race or gender at the initial stage of the hiring process. In re-visiting the question of how job applicants’ race and gender affect employer interest in their resumes, Cory Koedel, an associate professor of economics and public policy in the MU College of Arts and Science and Truman School of Public Affairs, analyzed employer response rates to resumes that were assigned randomly selected names.

“A key difference in this research is the inclusion of Hispanic applicants,” Koedel said. “To the best of our knowledge this study is the first to use a resume audit design to study labor market outcomes for Hispanic applicants in comparison to black and white applicants. This study also updates past research on resume response rates with newer data. Our data collection occurred between 2013 and 2014.”

Researchers sent 9,000 fictitious resumes to employers, using last names that were likely to be interpreted as coming from black, Hispanic or white applicants. For African-American applicants the researchers used the surnames Washington and Jefferson. According to data from the U.S. Census, 90 and 75 percent of individuals with these surnames are African-American, respectively. Similarly, the researchers used the surnames Hernandez and Garcia, and Anderson and Thompson, for Hispanic and white applicants, respectively. These surnames also are strong indicators of race/ethnicity. The researchers used first names to convey gender in the study.

“The labor market is constantly evolving,” Koedel said. “To best understand why race and gender based gaps exist in the market, we need to understand at what point the gaps occur. Our analysis reveals little evidence to suggest that employers discriminate by race or gender in responding to resumes.”

Rajeev Darolia, assistant professor in the Truman School of Public Affairs, co-authored the study with Koedel and other colleagues. “Race and Gender Effects on Employer Interest in Job Applicants: New Evidence form a Resume Field Experiment” was published in Applied Economic Letters.

Editor’s note: For more on the story, please see the policy brief from the Institute of Public Policy in the Truman School of Public Affairs, “An Updated Analysis of Race and Gender Effects on Employer Interest in Job Applicants.”

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