Discrimination in Low Wage Labor Markets
Presented by Devah Pager (Princeton University)
Racial progress over the past four decades has led some researchers and policy makers to proclaim the problem of discrimination solved. But debates about discrimination have been obscured by a lack of reliable evidence. In this study, we adopt an experimental audit approach to formally test patterns of discrimination in the low-wage labor market of New York City. By using matched teams of individuals to apply for real entry-level jobs, it becomes possible to directly measure the extent to which race/ethnicity�in the absence of other disqualifying characteristics�reduce employment opportunities among equally qualified applicants. We find that whites are systematically favored over black and Latino job seekers. Indeed, the effect of discrimination is so large that white job seekers just released from prison do no worse blacks without criminal records. Black job opportunities are also diminished by ethnic niches, in which blacks face additional competition from other minority workers. Relying on both quantitative and qualitative data from our testers� experiences, this study presents striking evidence of the continuing significance of race in shaping the employment opportunities of low-wage workers.