Out Now: Hiring discrimination on the basis of skin colour? A correspondence test in Switzerland

I’m very happy to announce a new publication in JEMS on hiring discrimination of Blacks in Switzerland (joint work with Rosita Fibbi, Eva Zschirnt, and Robin Stünzi). Sometimes it’s funny how events unfold — the decision to run this correspondence test to measure hiring discrimination on the basis of skin colour was taken in 2014, and we went into the field in 2018. Then, in 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum and increasingly people in Western Europe started talking about racism and discrimination against Blacks. In this sense, we‘re very happy to make our contribution to document discrimination as an undeniable fact, regardless of the fact that some keep claiming that without formal colonies Switzerland could not be affected by racism (I’ll leave the “happy” for times when things get better).

We show that Black jobseekers in Switzerland must send around 30 per cent more applications than White candidates in order to be invited to a job interview.

Not entirely by coincidence, we can compare the results with other recent correspondence studies in Switzerland that cover immigrants from Kosovo, and we can show that the level of discrimination is substantively equivalent for applicants with a Kosovo-Albanian name. This suggests that in the Swiss case there is on average no additional penalty for skin colour. Explorations, however, reveal significant differences in discrimination rates between urban and rural settings, opening new avenues for understanding why ethnic and racial discrimination vary across geographical contexts.

Rosita Fibbi, Didier Ruedin, Robin Stünzi & Eva Zschirnt (2021) Hiring discrimination on the basis of skin colour? A correspondence test in Switzerland, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2021.1999795

Peering over the shoulders of recruiters: Hiring discrimination on a recruitment platform

Here’s an exciting new study on hiring discrimination. They got access to the behavioural data of online recruiters to find evidence of discrimination against atypical candidates: Contact rates by recruiters are 4–19% lower for individuals from immigrant and minority ethnic groups, depending on their country of origin, than for citizens from the majority group. Women experience a penalty of 7% in professions that are dominated by men, and the opposite pattern emerges for men in professions that are dominated by women.

I find it interesting that they pitch their method as an alternative to correspondence tests (perhaps not all that novel if we’re looking outside the strict focus on hiring discrimination). We’re seeing an increasing number of correspondence tests in recent years, despite important ethical concerns. Not all of them are reasonably motivated, in my view — “no recent correspondence test” in a particular country/for a particular group/occupation does not cut it for me –, but jointly these studies give us a pretty clear picture of discrimination (especially in Western countries). Access to recruiting databases may not be possible in all countries, and we’re still struggling with the blatant omission of informal labour markets and internal recruitment. On the other hand, at least in principle we could test different interfaces and see if we can reduce discrimination this way…

Correspondence Test Shows Discrimination by School Administrators

A new correspondence study from Denmark shows discrimination by school administrators against parents with ‘Muslim’ names. They sent letters to schools across the country to ask whether they could move their son to that particular school (implying that they were not happy with the current school). 25% of fathers with a ‘Danish’ name (i.e. Peter Nielsen) received a positive answer, compared with 15% of fathers with a ‘Muslim’ name (i.e. Mohammad Osman).

In addition to holding everything constant by using men only (fathers enquiring about their sons), they had a variation in whether the son was a ‘diligent’ student. An interesting qualitative detail is that ‘Muslims’ are more often subjected to additional questions by e-mail (simple questions like verifying they actually live in the catchment area), while the ‘Danes’ were more often asked to call.

I find it interesting that their point of reference were studies on discrimination by public officials (typically politicians), but did not reflect methodological innovations from other correspondence tests, like stimulus sampling (!), or considerations of unmatched designs. I find it disappointing to find that the pre-registration at EGAP leads to a “page not found” error, especially since footnote 1 contains this interesting teaser: “We diverge from the preregistration to limit our focus only to the two variables that were subject to experimental manipulation and causal inference rather than those conditional on posttreatment responses.”

Continue reading “Correspondence Test Shows Discrimination by School Administrators”

How well do correspondence tests measure discrimination?

Correspondence tests are a useful field experiement to measure discrimination in the formal labour market. These correspondence tests are also known as CV experiements: Researchers send two equivalent applications to an employer, differening only in the quantity of interest — gender and ethnicity are common. If only the majority or male candidate is invited for a job interview, we probably have a case of discrimination. Once we aggreate across many employers, we’re pretty confident to have captured discrimination.

Most studies stop there, declining any offer to reduce the burden on employers. The hiring process, however, does not end there. Lincoln Quillian and his team have now compiled a list of studies that went further. They find that the first stage of screening is far from the end of discrimination, and the job interview can increase overall discrimination substantially. Correspondece tests focusing on the first stage will capture only some of the discrimination. Interestingly the discrimination at the job interview stage appears unrelated to discrimination at the first screening of applications.

Quillian, L., Lee, J., & Oliver, M. (2018). Meta-Analysis of Field Experiments Shows Significantly More Racial Discrimination in Job Offers than in Callbacks. Northwestern Workin Paper Series, 18(28). Retrieved from https://www.ipr.northwestern.edu/publications/papers/2018/wp-18-28.html

Zschirnt, E., & Ruedin, D. (2016). Ethnic discrimination in hiring decisions: A meta-analysis of correspondence tests 1990–2015. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 42(7), 1115–1134. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369183X.2015.1133279

Image: CC-by Richard Eriksson.