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

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.

Image: CC-by Richard Eriksson.

New paper on exposure in the job and attitudes to immigrants

I have the pleasure to announce our new paper on attitudes to foreigners. Marco and I wanted to move beyond the share of foreigners in geographically defined areas: We examined the share of foreigners in one’s job and how this is linked to attitudes. A key motivation for doing this was that many contributions on attitudes to immigrants seem to dismiss competitive threat in the labour market despite not providing a realistic test of such competition. Just think a moment: I’m not competing with (foreignany) workers in the construction sector, and I’m not competing with many of the highly educated immigrants workers either. We have segmented labour markets, and we should account for them in our analyses.

We find that a higher share of foreigners in one’s occupation correlates with more negative attitudes to immigrants. This suggests that workers react to competition with foreigners. When we dig deeper, we find that objective pressures in the labour market (we use the unemployment rate in each occupation) matter, just like contact with foreigners at work seem to alleviate negative attitudes. In fact, it turns out that sorting on job quality can probably account for these factors, especially objective pressures in the labour market.

Where does this leave us? It appears that workers react to immigrants at work in a differentiated manner. On the one hand, they dislike workers competing with them, on the other hand, they welcome them when they help overcome labour market shortages.

Pecoraro, Marco, and Didier Ruedin. 2019. “Occupational Exposure to Foreigners and Attitudes towards Equal Opportunities.” Migration Studies.

Ethnic discrimination in hiring: UK edition

The BBC report on a large correspondent test in the UK carried out by the excellent GEMM project. It’s good to see this reach a wider audience; it’s sad to see the results from our meta-analysis confirmed once again.

British citizens from ethnic minority backgrounds have to send, on average, 60% more job applications to get a positive response from employers compared to their white counterparts

What I really like about this short report by the BBC is that the essentials are covered. Yes we see discrimination, but no, it’s not so bad that none of the minority applicants would ever succeed. They also start the piece with an example of someone changing their name on the CV as a strategy to counter expected (or experienced) discrimination — and they highlight that discrimination has not declined despite policy changes, and indeed that discrimination affects native citizens who happen to have a ‘foreign’ name: they pay for an action of their parents or grandparents.

Are employers in Britain discriminating against ethnic minorities?, GEMM project: PDF of report

Zschirnt, Eva, and Didier Ruedin. 2016. ‘Ethnic Discrimination in Hiring Decisions: A Meta-Analysis of Correspondence Tests 1990–2015’. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 42 (7): 1115–34.