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How a Person’s Name Can Prompt Hiring Discrimination | Martin Abel

Editor’s Note: SHRM has partnered with The Conversation to bring you relevant articles on key HR topics and strategies. 

Because names are among the first things you learn about someone, they can influence first impressions. That this is particularly true for names associated with Black people came to light in 2004 with the release of a study that found employers seeing identical resumes were 50 percent more likely to call back an applicant with stereotypical white names like Emily or Greg versus applicants with names like Jamal or Lakisha.

I’m a behavioral economist who researches discrimination in labor markets. In a study based on a hiring experiment I conducted with another economist, Rulof Burger, we found that participants systematically discriminated against job candidates with names they associated with Black people, especially when put under time pressure. We also found that white people who oppose affirmative action discriminated more than other people against job candidates with distinctly Black names, whether or not they had to make rushed decisions.

Detecting Racial Biases

To conduct this study, we recruited 1,500 people from all 50 U.S. states in 2022 to participate in an online experiment using a survey platform. The group was nationally representative in terms of race and ethnicity, age and gender.

We first collected data on their beliefs about the race and ethnicity, education, productivity and personality traits of people with six names picked from a…

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