How much of racial discrimination stems from the customers?

Here is some reporting on a new paper by John Nunley, Adam Pugh, Nicholas Romero, and Richard Seals, here is one bit:

Black applicants faced major discrimination when applying for jobs with a customer focus. Researchers looked for jobs with words like “customer,” “sales,” “advisor,” “representative,” “agent,” and “loan officer” in the description. For jobs such as these, the discrimination gap soared. Instead of facing a 2.8 percentage-point gap between callback rates for whites and blacks, they faced a 4.4-point gap.

For jobs with descriptions that lacked those terms and were instead focused on interaction with coworkers, the level of discrimination collapsed. Descriptions with terms such as “manager,” “administrator,” “coordinator,” “operations,” and so forth, the difference in callback rates was 0.1 to 0.3 percentage points.

In other words, the problem isn’t that Joe Smith doesn’t want to hire young African-Americans, but that he is worried that if he hires a black sales associate, old Mrs. Jones may take her business elsewhere.

You will find the paper, and related work, here.  By the way, the discrimination effect was weakest in the cities of Baltimore and Portland.

For the pointer I thank the esteemed Samir Varma.


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