How white employers perceive same-race referrals: The role of perceived in-group favoritism – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

How white employers perceive same-race referrals: The role of perceived in-group favoritism

Brooke Van Horne


Pronouns: she/her/hers

Research Mentor(s): Fabiana Silva, Assistant Professor
Research Mentor School/College/Department: Public Policy, Ford School of Public Policy
Presentation Date: Thursday, April 22, 2021
Session: Session 3 (1pm-1:50pm)
Breakout Room: Room 6
Presenter: 3

Event Link


Racial inequality and discrimination are still pervasive in the U.S. labor market. Prior research finds that employers discriminate against black and Latino jobseekers without referrals, but we know less about how race affects how employers evaluate jobseekers’ same-race referrals. Many jobseekers find employment through referrals and existing networks, both of which are typically the same race as the applicant. To address this gap in literature, we conducted a survey experiment where we tested the differences in how employers evaluate the same-race referrals of White, Black, Hispanic and Asian job applicants. The analyzed data come from an empirical experiment conducted in the United States. White individuals (n = 635) with hiring and/or supervisory experience in their workplace were recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk to participate in a survey experiment. Respondents were assigned a random racial group (Black, White, Hispanic, Asian) and were asked whether individuals of these racial groups prefer to refer individuals of their same race, or the best qualified job applicants. Respondents were then asked to explain their choice in their own words and their responses were coded into a fairly small number of categories. We found that while approximately half of the sample stated that black and Hispanic employees prefer to refer applicants of their same race than the “best qualified” applicants, and approximately 1/3 reported the same for Asian employees, only 16% stated that whites prefer to refer white applicants rather than the best-qualified applicants. We also analyze the open-ended responses to examine mechanisms underlying these racial differences.

Authors: Fabiana Silva, Brooke Van Horne
Research Method: Survey Research

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