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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.

Comments

The architects of this study deserve a round of applause. Finally, we have some emperical data to counter the convenient belief held by many whites and some blacks that racial discrimination is part of a bygone era. The problem I'm afraid to say is - I don't believe most whites who read this study and its conclusions will honestly care about this indictment of American society.

It appears that the socialization process that whites have undergone relative to their privileged place in American society is so thoroughly complete that a study of this magnitude will hardly trigger anything more than casual debate (if that) among whites.

Personally, I have found discussing the issue of race with whites in general to be one of the most frustrating experiences in my life - so much so that I have ceased engaging whites in dialogue regarding this matter altogether. It is simply a waste of time.

The architects of this study deserve a round of applause. Finally, we have some emperical data to counter the convenient belief held by many whites and some blacks that racial discrimination is part of a bygone era. The problem, I'm afraid to say, is - I don't believe most whites who read this study and its conclusions will honestly care about this particular indictment of American society.

It appears that the socialization process that whites have undergone relative to their privileged place in American society is so thoroughly complete that a study of this magnitude will hardly trigger anything more than casual debate (if that) among whites.

Personally, as a black man, I have found discussing the issue of race with whites (in general) to be one of the most frustrating experiences in my life - so much so that I have ceased engaging whites in dialogue regarding this matter altogether. It is simply a waste of time.