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Discrimination in a Low-Wage Labor Market: A Field Experiment

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Author Info

  • Pager, Devah

    ()
    (Princeton University)

  • Western, Bruce

    ()
    (Harvard University)

  • Bonikowski, Bart

    ()
    (Princeton University)

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    Abstract

    Decades of racial progress have led some researchers and policymakers to doubt that discrimination remains an important cause of economic inequality. To study contemporary discrimination we conducted a field experiment in the low-wage labor market of New York City. The experiment recruited white, black, and Latino job applicants, called testers, who were matched on demographic characteristics and interpersonal skills. The testers were given equivalent resumes and sent to apply in tandem for hundreds of entry-level jobs. Our results show that black applicants were half as likely to receive a callback or job offer relative to equally qualified whites. In fact, black and Latino applicants with clean backgrounds fared no better than a white applicant just released from prison. Additional qualitative evidence from our testers' experiences further illustrates the multiple points at which employment trajectories can be deflected by various forms of racial bias. Together these results point to the subtle but systematic forms of discrimination that continue to shape employment opportunities for low-wage workers.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4469.

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    Length: 51 pages
    Date of creation: Oct 2009
    Date of revision:
    Publication status: published in: American Sociological Review, 2009, 74 (5), 77-799
    Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4469

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    Related research

    Keywords: discrimination; field experiment; race; labor markets;

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    Cited by:
    1. Fryer, Roland G. & Pager, Devah & Spenkuch, Jörg L., 2011. "Racial Disparities in Job Finding and Offered Wages," MPRA Paper 33607, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Eva O. Arceo-Gomez & Raymundo M. Campos-Vazquez, 2014. "Race and Marriage in the Labor Market: A Discrimination Correspondence Study in a Developing Country," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(5), pages 376-80, May.
    3. Janelle Jones & John Schmitt, 2014. "A College Degree is No Guarantee," CEPR Reports and Issue Briefs 2014-08, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).
    4. FANG Zheng & Chris SAKELLARIOU, 2010. "Discrimination in the Equilibrium Search Model with Wage-Tenure Contracts," Economic Growth centre Working Paper Series 1004, Nanyang Technolgical University, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Economic Growth centre.
    5. Anthony Edo & Nicolas Jacquemet & Constantine Yannelis, 2013. "Language Skills and Homophilous Hiring Discrimination: Evidence from Gender- and Racially-Differentiated Applications," Documents de travail du Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne 13058, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1), Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne.
    6. John Schmitt & Janelle Jones, 2013. "Has Education Paid Off for Black Workers?," CEPR Reports and Issue Briefs 2013-11, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).
    7. Rodney Andrews, 2010. "Comments on “Black Americans in the 21st Century: Should We Be Optimistic or Concerned?”," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer, vol. 37(3), pages 253-255, September.
    8. Gillian Kingston & Frances McGinnity & Philip J. O’Connell, 2013. "Discrimination in the Irish Labour Market: Nationality, Ethnicity and the Recession," Working Papers 201323, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
    9. Morten Hedegaard & Jean-Robert Tyran, 2014. "The Price of Prejudice," Discussion Papers 14-05, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    10. Baert, Stijn & Verhofstadt, Elsy, 2013. "Labour Market Discrimination against Former Juvenile Delinquents: Evidence from a Field Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 7845, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    11. Robynn Cox, 2010. "Crime, Incarceration, and Employment in Light of the Great Recession," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer, vol. 37(3), pages 283-294, September.

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