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Would You Change Your Race and Religion to Find a Job?

Michael Jackson

Although most people won’t talk about it, race still plays a significant role when apply for a job. According to a Huffington Post article, religion and race play a prominent role in hiring and employer responses when applying for an entry level job. Two sociological studies created “fake” resumes that had religious identifiers (such as affiliation with a College religious group or organization) and resumes with no identifiers including using common names. Both studies found that the group which received the lowest call backs and email responses were the resumes that identified with a Muslim student organization or hinted in other ways that the candidate was of the Muslim faith. All of the resumes sent had similar qualifications and credentials to accurately gauge if race, religion, ethnicity or identity was a determining factor during the application/hiring process.

See Also: Starbucks’ ’Race Together’ Needed Despite Uproar

My inspiration for this article was a result of reading the book “Black Like Me” in which writer and journalist John Howard Griffin spent six weeks traveling the deep south to experience and document the racial segregation and racism black people of region were subjected to during the late 50s early 60s. A time when racial tensions were at a breaking point.

In his book, he also chose to present the struggles the black population dealt with on a daily basis and sought to highlight these struggles, create sensitivity and awareness. He underwent a medical procedure that darkened his skin and to protect his family from racially fueled retribution told no one of his project except a select few that also believed in equality and the abolition of racial segregation. His book was a bestseller when it was released in 1961.

A Rose By a Boring Name

In a study done by Marianne Bertand (University of Chicago) and Sendhil Mullainathan (Harvard University) resumes were sent out in the Boston and Chicago area responding to help wanted ads in local newspapers. The resumes used either obviously Caucasian names or obviously African American names. The results yielded a 50% higher callback rate for the resumes of the white applicants than the African American resumes. The effect was also observable when both groups had higher qualifications with white applicants receiving 30% more callbacks than the African American applicants. The study also showed a bias against lower socioeconomic groups; with people living in better neighborhoods getting more callbacks than people that had an address in poorer areas, regardless of race.

Damning Disparity


Race not only affects the hiring process but how you are compensated if you get a job. According to The Atlantic Senior Editor Derek Thompson, although participation in the workforce is nominally higher for Hispanics and nominally lower for African-Americans compared to Caucasians their compensation is significantly lower. Even though white women only make 81% of what white men make, this gap is extremely small in comparison to the 75.1% African American men make compared to Caucasian men. Compounding that is the fact that white women only have a 57.7% participation in the workforce compared to 63.6% (in 2012).

Education and Opportunity

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, across all levels of higher education minority groups have fewer degrees awarded than those of Caucasians. In 2010, 929.106 white individuals achieved bachelor’s level of education compared to just 108.013 African American candidates. The numbers dwindle even further as the level of education advances, with 82.984 Caucasian doctoral degree holders compared to only 7.080 African American PHDs. This is just another factor contributing to the wage gap and discrimination against racial and ethnic groups.

Whites had a 5% dropout rate compared to 7% among Black and Hispanic groups. In actual numbers, though, these percentages become staggering. Of 2.215.000 dropouts, Hispanics counted for a whopping 889.000. All these factors have contributed to minorities being paid less than their Caucasian counterparts resulting in lower socioeconomic status amongst these groups continuing the cycle of lacking availability of education.

A Race by Any Other Name.


During what is known by historians as the Third Wave of Immigration, between 1880 and 1930 25 million immigrants arrived in the U.S. Many of these immigrants came from Southern and Eastern Europe, and chose to Americanize their names to ease their assimilation. But they were trying to create a new life for themselves, become fully fledged members of a different country. Would you change your name to get a job? As I mentioned above people with more African American or exotic names get a substantially lower rate of call-backs. Some people go as far as removing credentials that indicate certain racial or ethnic identity, such as a historically Black University or work experience with a Hispanic-American non-for-profit.

One of the results of this racial “retooling” of resumes is a constant struggle to not accept that society is still fundamentally biased toward ethnicity and race. A great example is that of University of Chicago graduate Johnny R. Williams, who had an impressive work record including working with arguably one of the largest financial institutions JP Morgan Chase. Yet after a very warm initial response from interviewers their interest quickly waned. Many times these biases are expressed under the guise of fitting into the “office culture” or being the right “cultural fit” two very popular corporate buzzwords. It was mentioned in this New York Times article that even though these individuals may feel like they are being discriminated against they are apprehensive to pull the “race card” in fear of proliferating the negative stereotype regarding claiming to be a victim.

Is There Anything Being Done

There are various programs that entice employers to have a diverse pool of employees. When it comes to job applicant discrimination as it is not overt discrimination (in most cases), it is almost impossible to prove. At least that’s what the people doing the discriminating say. The proof I think is in the numbers.

The Masked Google Image Test


If you don’t believe that society is biased against certain racial/ethnic groups, I would like you to try this test I invented that I like to awkwardly call the Masked Google Image Test. Google image search the term "Black man wearing mask", "White man wearing mask", "Asian man wearing mask" and "Hispanic man wearing mask". Tell me that there isn’t something wrong with the results when you compare them.

So given all the information above would you change your race or relegion to find a job? We’d love to hear from you, please leave you comment in the section below.  

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