What's in a name?

Published: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 21, 2003 at 11:03 p.m.
For anyone who may think racial discrimination in America is a thing of the past, or that Trent Lott was merely an aberration, an academic study on job applications by race should raise some eyebrows.
Two professors, one from the University of Chicago and one from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, sent out several thousand resumes in response to 1,300 want ads in the Chicago Tribune and The Boston Globe.
Half of the resumes listed strong qualifications and the other half listed somewhat lesser qualifications. Half of each group carried "black-sounding" names (Aisha, Keisha, Rasheed, etc.) and the other half carried names regarded as typically white (Neil, Brett, Emily, Anne, etc.)
The results: Ten percent of the "white" applicants got callbacks, compared to 6.7 percent of the "black" applicants. That's a 50 percent difference.
"This represents a difference . . . that solely can be attributed to name manipulation," said Professors Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan. "Our results so far suggest that there is a substantial amount of discrimination in the job-recruiting process."
It's quite likely that much of the discrimination is subconscious. But it's there, nonetheless. It even extended to companies that advertised themselves as "equal opportunity employers."
Discrimination is a thing of the past? Let's not kid ourselves.

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