Firms That Discriminate Earn Lower Profits

(p. B1) Economists at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Chicago this week unveiled a vast discrimination audit of some of the largest U.S. companies. Starting in late 2019, they sent 83,000 fake job applications for entry-level positions at 108 companies — most of them in the top 100 of the Fortune 500 list, and (p. B6) some of their subsidiaries.

. . .

(p. B6) In the study, applicants’ characteristics — like age, sexual orientation, or work and school experience — varied at random. Names, however, were chosen purposefully to ensure applications came in pairs: one with a more distinctive white name — Jake or Molly, say — and the other with a similar background but a more distinctive Black name, like DeShawn or Imani.

. . . : On average, applications from candidates with a “Black name” get fewer callbacks than similar applications bearing a “white name.”

. . .

All told, for every 1,000 applications received, the researchers found, white candidates got about 250 responses, compared with about 230 for Black candidates. But among one-fifth of companies, the average gap grew to 50 callbacks. Even allowing that some patterns of discrimination could be random, rather than the result of racism, they concluded that 23 companies from their selection were “very likely to be engaged in systemic discrimination against Black applicants.”

. . .

“Discriminatory behavior is clustered in particular firms,” the researchers wrote. “The identity of many of these firms can be deduced with high confidence.”

The researchers also identified some overall patterns. For starters, discriminating companies tend to be less profitable, a finding consistent with the proposition by Gary Becker, who first studied discrimination in the workplace in the 1950s, that it is costly for firms to discriminate against productive workers.

For the full story, see:

Eduardo Porter. “Study Shows Which Firms Discriminate.” The New York Times (Friday, July 30, 2021): B1 & B6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 29, 2021, and has the title “Who Discriminates in Hiring? A New Study Can Tell.”)

The economic study summarized in the passages quoted above is:

Kline, Patrick M., Evan K Rose, and Christopher R Walters. “Systemic Discrimination among Large U.S. Employers.” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper #29053, Aug. 2021.

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