Posted on October 7, 2022

The US Has Relatively Low Rates of Hiring Discrimination

Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution, October 3, 2022

There have now been lots of resume-audit studies in which identical resumes but for the “minority-distinct” name are sent out to employers and callback rates are measured. A meta-study of 97 field experiments (N = 200,000 job applicants) in 9 countries in Europe and North America finds there is some discrimination in every county but, if anything, the USA has one of the lower rates of discrimination while France and perhaps also Sweden have very high levels. {snip}

The authors make a number of interesting points:

…national histories of slavery and colonialism are neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for a country to have relatively high levels of labor market discrimination. Some countries with colonial pasts demonstrate high rates of hiring discrimination, but several countries without extensive colonial pasts (outside Europe), such as Sweden, demonstrate similar levels. Likewise, the lower rates of discrimination against minorities in the United States than we find for many European countries seem contrary to expectations that emphasize the primacy of connection to slavery in shaping the contemporary level of national discrimination. These results do not suggest that slavery and colonialism do not matter for levels of discrimination, rather they indicate that they matter in more complex ways than suggested by theories that posit simple, direct influences of the past on current discrimination.


High discrimination in the French labor market seems inconsistent with claims made by some scholars that discourse or measurement of race and ethnicity itself will tend to produce more discrimination by promoting “groupism” and group stereotypes (Sniderman and Hagendoorn 2007). The efforts in France not to measure or formally discuss race or ethnicity do not seem to have led to less discrimination.