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Thursday: September 2, 2010

Further Discrimination Needed For This Hypothesis?

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:41 PM UTC

A recent study purports to show that resumes with ‘black’ names on them are less likely to lead to an interview than those with ‘white’ names. I won’t quibble with the selection of names, other than to note that both of the Leroys I know (one first name, one middle) are white.

What bothers me about the study is how one-dimensional it is. I have a strong hunch that the prejudice is not so much against ‘black’ names as against unusual names of any kind. It would have been easy enough to rule out my hypothesis if the scholars involved had widened their selection of names to more than the two lists, ‘white’ and ‘black’.

To be specific, I strongly suspect that stereotypically southern (white) names like Bubba, Zeke, Elmer, Vernon, Bettie Lou, and Lou Ann are at least as discriminated against by prospective employers as Jamal and Takesha, at least in northern cities. Any non-standard Biblical name probably doesn’t help: David and Benjamin are (I imagine) OK, Jeremiah and Hezekiah far less so. I also suspect that really old-fashioned non-Southern names are also harmful: Mildred, Millicent, Gertrude, Agnes, Henrietta, Cyril, Barnaby, Julius, Clyde. The comments are open (though moderated) for further suggestions.

If the authors of the original study are looking for a topic for a sequel, they are welcome to this one. All I ask is a laudatory mention in the first footnote.