CASE STUDY

IS EMILY MORE EMPLOYABLE THAN LAKISHA?

Although measuring the extent of discrimination from labor-market outcomes is hard, some compelling evidence for the existence of such discrimination comes from a creative “field experiment.Economists Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan answered more than 1,300 help-wanted ads run in Boston and Chicago newspapers by sending in nearly 5,000 fake resumes. Half of the resumes had names that were common in the African-American community, such as Lakisha Washington or Jamal Jones. The other
half had names that were more common among the white population, such as Emily Walsh and Greg Baker. Otherwise, the resumes were similar, The results of this experiment were published in the American Economic Review in September 2004.
The researchers found large differences in how employers responded to the two groups of resumes. Job applicants with white names received about 50 percent more calls from interested employers than applicants with African-American names. The study found that this discrimination occurred for all types of employer, including those who claim to be an “Equal Opportunity Employer in their help wanted ads. The researchers concluded that “racial discrimination is still a prominent feature of the labor market.