Structural racism is a reality. We were asked by the Service for Combating Racism to gather existing evidence for structural racism. Today, the results are announced (press release in German, French, Italian). There are accessible 10-page summaries available in German, French, and Italian, and more detailed 50-page reports in German, French, and Italian over at the website of the SFM. For those interested in more technical details, or a brief overview in English, there’s an online appendix.
To synthesize the literature, we chose a scoping review, in which we screened around 1,500 studies to identify 304 studies that treat structural racism in Switzerland broadly defined. Only studies with empirical evidence were used, and only those who covered the situation in Switzerland. In addition, we used interviews to better make sense of the results, and to provide a contemporary understanding of structural racism. Our contribution was the synthesis, not the knowledge that was already out there — albeit scattered in different places.
Drawing on a conceptual frame by Osta and Vasquez (2021), we approached structural racism with three components (history, policies, practices; inequitable outcomes, disparities; associations, stereotypes, assumptions) and connections between these components. All methods identify racial inequalities, racialized practices, or racist stereotypes across spheres and groups. Many studies draw on migration and nationality for classification, and most studies provide partial evidence, but when considered jointly, the existing literature provides a clear picture consistent with structural racism.
Over at the NCCR on the move blog, there’s a summary of research undertaken jointly with Eva Van Belle on CV Whitening. The blog post takes a step back and embeds considerations of CV Whitening in broader research on ethnic discrimination in the job market and the correspondence tests we use to measure discrimination.
In Western countries, we observe that some employers discriminate against people with a name indicating that they are from a minority group. Research has shown that if you have a name signalling that you are an ‘immigrant’ or belong to an ‘ethnic minority,’ the chances of being invited to a job interview are reduced. Factoring in the potential discrimination, some immigrants and members of ethnic minority groups have been observed to adopt strategies to hide details that show their minority status from their applications.
Correspondence tests have highlighted systematic discrimination in the labour market. In a correspondence test researchers create fictitious applications and send them to real employers and landlords. The applications are constructed in a way to highlight discriminatory practices in cases where minority applicants are invited less often to interviews. On average, applicants from non-neighbouring countries find it much harder to be invited to a job interview.
Considering the discrimination, ‘immigrants’ and members of ethnic minority groups have a clear incentive to hide details from their applications that make their minority statuses apparent. On the contrary, if an employer cannot tell that the applicant is an ‘immigrant’ or belongs to a minority group, the chances of getting invited to an interview have been noted to increase.
Over at the BI team, there’s a nice summary of the lack of evidence on unconscious bias and diversity training. Note in particular the difference between perceived “effectiveness” and the lack of evidence that behaviour actually changed. As usual, the focus is really on application and the question what should be done. Discrimination is too serious an issue that we can leave it to feel-good check-box exercises!