What Researchers Discovered When They Sent 80,000 Fake Résumés To U.S. Jobs

What Researchers Discovered When They Sent 80,000 Fake Résumés To U.S. Jobs


Photo by cottonbro studio

A recent study conducted by economists sheds light on systemic discrimination in the hiring process across major U.S. companies. The experiment involved sending out 80,000 fictitious résumés to approximately 100 of the largest firms in the country, with identical qualifications but varying personal characteristics such as names suggesting either white or Black ethnicity, and male or female gender.

The results, published in the American Economic Review, highlighted significant disparities in callback rates based on applicants’ perceived race. On average, employers were 9.5 percent more likely to contact presumed white applicants than presumed Black applicants. However, this racial bias varied widely among firms and industries.

Companies in certain sectors exhibited higher levels of racial bias, particularly those with significant customer interaction such as sales and retail, especially in the auto sector. This bias persisted even in non-customer-facing roles, indicating systemic issues within corporate cultures or human resources practices.

The study identified specific companies that displayed the largest racial gaps in callback rates. AutoNation, a used car retailer, contacted presumed white applicants 43 percent more often than presumed Black applicants, while Genuine Parts Company, which sells auto parts including under the NAPA brand, showed a 33 percent gap in favor of white candidates.

Certain industries showed less racial bias, with food stores, food products, freight and transport, and wholesale sectors exhibiting minimal differences in callback rates between white and Black applicants, Forbes reported.

The researchers emphasized that discrimination against Black applicants remains deeply entrenched in parts of the U.S. labor market, contributing to disparities in employment opportunities and wages. Despite efforts to address discrimination, including recent social movements like Black Lives Matter, significant challenges persist.

“I am not in the least bit surprised,” Daiquiri Steele, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama School of Law who previously worked for the Department of Labor on employment discrimination, told The New York Times. “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.”

Initially, the researchers disclosed their experiment details in 2021 without revealing the company names. Now, in this new paper published in the American Economic Review, they reveal the companies’ identities and outline their methodology for categorizing them based on performance, accounting for statistical variations.

“We want to bring people’s attention not only to the fact that racism is real, sexism is real, some are discriminating, but also that it’s possible to do better, and there’s something to be learned from those that have been doing a good job,” said Patrick Kline, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who conducted the study with Evan K. Rose at the University of Chicago and Christopher R. Walters at Berkeley.

Photo by cottonbro studio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-black-ipad-with-black-case-5989925/