Despite efforts to promote equality in the United States, there are still disparities in employment between different racial groups. Employers have a bias towards white candidates compared to black candidates. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has rules against employers asking for information that could indicate an applicant’s race (EEOC). However, employers continue to use an applicant’s name as a way of determining their racial background.
To address job discrimination resulting from implicit racial biases, a suggestion is made to remove names from job applications. This anonymization of applications will encourage a fair employment process based on merit and decrease preference for names perceived as “white-sounding”. By adopting this policy, employers’ discriminatory behaviors can be revealed and ultimately contribute to narrowing the racial employment disparity in the United States.
Employer discrimination perpetuates racism against minorities in the job market, often subtly and covertly justified by the belief in black inferiority (Darity Jr. and Mason 1998:65). Despite comprising approximately 15% of the US population (US Census Bureau), blacks experience higher unemployment rates compared to whites. This disparity has persisted since 1954, with the smallest difference occurring in 2009 when the black unemployment rate was 1.67 times higher than that of whites (Desilver 2013). In the last year, the black unemployment rate exceeded that of whites by a margin of 6.0% (Desilver 2013).
Many members of the US labor force are unfairly denied opportunities due to an implicit bias against certain names. According to law professors Christine Jolls and Cass R. Sunstein, implicit bias refers to an unconscious bias against disadvantaged groups, which means that people may treat others differently without even realizing it (2006:969). If this issue is not addressed, employers will continue to overlook highly qualified sources of labor. Furthermore, unemployed African Americans will endure a second-class citizenship, facing oppression.
Sociologists studying racial employment inequalities will inevitably encounter Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan’s research on race within different labor markets. These two social economists conducted an experiment where they sent out resumes of fictitious job applicants with names that either sounded black or white to different companies. Their findings revealed that the disparity between white and African-American callbacks increases as the quality of the resumes improves (Bertrand and Mullainathan 2004:992).
According to Bertrand and Mullainathan (2004:992), white-named applicants with lower-quality resumes, such as Emily Walsh or Greg Baker, had a smaller increase in callbacks compared to those with higher-quality resumes. In contrast, black-named applicants like Lakisha Washington or Jamal Jones experienced a higher increase in callbacks compared to their white counterparts. The study found that the ratio of callback rates for high- versus low-quality resumes was 1.60 for African Americans and 1.89 for Whites (Bertrand and Mullainathan 2004:1001). This demonstrates that a person’s implied race significantly influences the hiring process.
The presence of influence can be attributed to employers’ tendency to make assumptions about an applicant’s social background based on their name. In their study, Bertrand and Mullainathan (2004:1007) argue that employers often associate names like “Tyrone” or “Latoya” with individuals coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. Due to legal restrictions, employers are unable to directly request certain information, and therefore they try to deduce as much as possible from the information provided in the application. Professors William Darity Jr. and Patrick Mason state that there is an incentive for employers to use group membership as a signal for anticipating an applicant’s background.