Systemic Discrimination Among Large U.S. Employers
We study the results of a massive nationwide correspondence experiment sending more than 83,000 fictitious applications with randomized characteristics to geographically dispersed jobs posted by 108 of the largest U.S. employers. Distinctively Black names reduce the probability of employer contact by 2.1 percentage points relative to distinctively white names. The magnitude of this racial gap in contact rates differs substantially across firms, exhibiting a between-company standard deviation of 1.9 percentage points. Despite an insignificant average gap in contact rates between male and female applicants, we find a between-company standard deviation in gender contact gaps of 2.7 percentage points, revealing that some firms favor male applicants while others favor women. Company-specific racial contact gaps are temporally and spatially persistent, and negatively correlated with firm profitability, federal contractor status, and a measure of recruiting centralization. Discrimination exhibits little geographical dispersion, but two digit industry explains roughly half of the cross-firm variation in both racial and gender contact gaps. Contact gaps are highly concentrated in particular companies, with firms in the top quintile of racial discrimination responsible for nearly half of lost contacts to Black applicants in the experiment. Controlling false discovery rates to the 5% level, 23 individual companies are found to discriminate against Black applicants. Our findings establish that discrimination against distinctively Black names is concentrated among a select set of large employers, many of which can be identified with high confidence using large scale inference methods.
We thank Sendhil Mullainathan, Sapna Raj, and Jenny Yang for helpful conversations, our discussants Peter Hull and Peter Q. Blair, and seminar participants at UC Berkeley, Chicago Booth, the University of Chicago HCEO Working Group, the University of Wisconsin, CEPR, IZA, the NBER Labor Studies meetings, and CESifo for useful comments. We also thank the J-PAL North America Social Policy Research Initiative for generous funding support. A pre-analysis plan for this project can be found under AEA RCT registry number AEARCTR-0004739. Outstanding research assistance was provided by Jake Anderson, Hadar Avivi, Elena Marchetti-Bowick, Ross Chu, Brian Collica, Nicole Gandre, and Ben Scuderi. We are grateful to our determined team of undergraduate volunteers, without whom this project would not have been possible: May Adberg, Jason Chen, Stephanie Cong, Simon Duabis, Daniel Dychala, Samuel Gao, Alexandra Groscost, Victoria Haworth, Camille Hillion, Ben Keltner, Mary Kruberg, Jiaxin Lei, Carol Lee, Collin Lu, Oliver McNeil, Riley Odom, Sarah Phung, Eric Phillips, Stephanie Ross, Marcus Sander, Pat Tagari, Quinghuai Tan, Lydia Wen, Zijun Xu, Xilin Ying, Andy Zhong, Leila Zhua, Yingjia Zhang, and Yiran Zi. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Patrick Kline & Evan K Rose & Christopher R Walters, 2022. "Systemic Discrimination Among Large U.S. Employers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol 137(4), pages 1963-2036. citation courtesy of