IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/iza/izadps/dp4469.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

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

Author

Listed:
  • Pager, Devah

    (Harvard University)

  • Western, Bruce

    () (Harvard University)

  • Bonikowski, Bart

    () (Princeton University)

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Pager, Devah & Western, Bruce & Bonikowski, Bart, 2009. "Discrimination in a Low-Wage Labor Market: A Field Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 4469, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4469
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://ftp.iza.org/dp4469.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Devah Pager, 2003. "The mark of a criminal record," Natural Field Experiments 00319, The Field Experiments Website.
    2. Holzer, Harry J, 1987. "Informal Job Search and Black Youth Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(3), pages 446-452, June.
    3. Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2004. "The Causes and Consequences of Distinctively Black Names," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(3), pages 767-805.
    4. Oettinger, Gerald S, 1996. "Statistical Discrimination and the Early Career Evolution of the Black-White Wage Gap," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(1), pages 52-78, January.
    5. Marc Bendick & Charles Jackson & Victor Reinoso, 1994. "Measuring employment discrimination through controlled experiments," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 23(1), pages 25-48, June.
    6. Neal, Derek A & Johnson, William R, 1996. "The Role of Premarket Factors in Black-White Wage Differences," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 869-895, October.
    7. Joseph G. Altonji & Charles R. Pierret, 2001. "Employer Learning and Statistical Discrimination," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 313-350.
    8. Michael Fix & Raymond Struyk, 1993. "Clear and convincing evidence: Measurement of discrimination in america," Natural Field Experiments 00241, The Field Experiments Website.
    9. James J. Heckman, 1998. "Detecting Discrimination," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(2), pages 101-116, Spring.
    10. William A. Darity & Patrick L. Mason, 1998. "Evidence on Discrimination in Employment: Codes of Color, Codes of Gender," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(2), pages 63-90, Spring.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Roland G. Fryer, Jr. & Devah Pager & Jörg L. Spenkuch, 2013. "Racial Disparities in Job Finding and Offered Wages," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56(3), pages 633-689.
    2. David Neumark, 2018. "Experimental Research on Labor Market Discrimination," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 56(3), pages 799-866, September.
    3. David Neumark & Harry Holzer, 2000. "Assessing Affirmative Action," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(3), pages 483-568, September.
    4. John J. Donohue III, 2005. "The Law and Economics of Antidiscrimination Law," NBER Working Papers 11631, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Celeste K. Carruthers & Marianne H. Wanamaker, 2017. "Separate and Unequal in the Labor Market: Human Capital and the Jim Crow Wage Gap," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(3), pages 655-696.
    6. Judith K. Hellerstein & David Neumark, 2008. "Workplace Segregation in the United States: Race, Ethnicity, and Skill," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(3), pages 459-477, August.
    7. Kevin Lang & Michael Manove, 2011. "Education and Labor Market Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(4), pages 1467-1496, June.
    8. Bertrand, Marianne & Duflo, Esther, 2016. "Field Experiments on Discrimination," CEPR Discussion Papers 11123, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Judith K. Hellerstein & David Neumark, 2006. "Using Matched Employer–Employee Data to Study Labor Market Discrimination," Chapters, in: William M. Rodgers III (ed.),Handbook on the Economics of Discrimination, chapter 2, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    10. Francesco Renna & Randall King, 2007. "The Impact of Racial Discrimination on the Early Career Outcomes of Young Men," Atlantic Economic Journal, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 35(3), pages 269-278, September.
    11. Slonim, Robert & Guillen, Pablo, 2010. "Gender selection discrimination: Evidence from a Trust game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 385-405, November.
    12. Paul Frijters, 2003. "Testing for Employee Discrimination using Matched Employer-Employee Data: Theory and Evidence," Paul Frijters Discussion Papers 2003-1, School of Economics and Finance, Queensland University of Technology.
    13. Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 991-1013, September.
    14. Srikanth Ramamurthy & Norman Sedgley, 2015. "Human Capital Choice and the Wage Gap: The Role of Worklife Expectancy and Statistical Discrimination," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 36(2), pages 175-187, June.
    15. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Jonathan Guryan, 2007. "Prejudice and The Economics of Discrimination," NBER Working Papers 13661, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Bohacek, Radim & Myck, Michal, 2017. "Economic Consequences of Political Persecution," IZA Discussion Papers 11136, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    17. Button, Patrick & Walker, Brigham, 2020. "Employment discrimination against Indigenous Peoples in the United States: Evidence from a field experiment," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(C).
    18. Chen, Yiu Por (Vincent) & Zhang, Yuan, 2018. "A decomposition method on employment and wage discrimination and its application in urban China (2002–2013)," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 1-12.
    19. O'Neill, Donal & Sweetman, Olive & Van de gaer, Dirk, 2006. "The impact of cognitive skills on the distribution of the black-white wage gap," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 343-356, June.
    20. Nicholas Biddle, 2013. "Comparing Self Perceived and Observed Labour Market Discrimination in Australia," Economic Papers, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 32(3), pages 383-394, September.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    discrimination; field experiment; race; labor markets;

    JEL classification:

    • J7 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4469. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Holger Hinte). General contact details of provider: http://www.iza.org .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.