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The Mechanisms of Labor Market Discrimination: How Sex, Gender Role, and Sexual Orientation Treatments Impact Evaluations of Black Male Job Applicants


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Principal Investigator(s):

David Pedulla
University of Texas at Austin
Email: dpedulla@utexas.edu
Home page: https://sites.google.com/site/pedullad/davidpedulla

Sample size: 1500
Field period: 7/18/2011-9/22/2011


Abstract:

Extant field-experimental research demonstrates that racial discrimination against black men persists in the U.S. labor market. Among the mechanisms proposed to explain this persistent discrimination are stereotypes about black men as hyper-masculine, threatening, violent, and criminal. However, extant research has not explicitly tested the degree to which these stereotypes impact the evaluations of job applicants and how counter-stereotypical information may reduce discrimination against black men. Do individuals in stigmatized groups, in this case black men, receive more favorable evaluations when they present reviewers with information counter to the stereotypes about their group? Or, are individuals who are part of stigmatized groups penalized when they present counter-normative, counter-stereotypical information to job evaluators? This survey experiment begins to address these questions by having respondents evaluate a job applicant where the applicant’s resume is experimentally manipulated along two dimensions. The race (black vs. white) of the applicant is manipulated along one axis by using racialized names. On the second axis, I manipulate the sex (male vs. female), gender presentation (masculine vs. feminine), or sexual orientation (straight vs. gay) of the applicant by varying their participation in college activities. After reviewing the resume to which they were randomly assigned, respondents were asked to evaluate the applicant along a host of dimensions – reliability, trustworthiness, warmth, etc. – and to make hiring and salary recommendations for the applicant. Findings from this research shed light on the mechanisms underlying racial discrimination in the United States.

Hypotheses:

H1. Black male job applicants will face discrimination compared to white male job applicants.

H2a. Black female job applicants will face less discrimination than black male job applicants.

H2b. “Feminized” black male job applicants will face less discrimination than “masculine” black male job applicants.

H2c. Gay black male job applicants will face less discrimination than straight black male job applicants.

H3. The reduction in discrimination for female, “feminized,” and gay black male job applicants will be explained by the applicants being perceived as less threatening, violent, and criminal.

Experimental Manipulations:

Along one axis, the race (black vs. white) of the job applicant is manipulated using racialized names. Along the other axis, the sex (male vs. female), gender presentation (masculine vs. feminine), or sexual orientation (gay vs. straight) of the applicant is manipulated through participation in different college activities. The result is a 2X6 between-subjects experimental design.

Key Dependent Variables:

Respondents are asked whether or not they would recommend hiring the applicant and to provide an annual salary recommendation for the applicant. Additionally, respondents are asked to evaluate the applicant on sixteen different personality and workplace behavior traits (e.g., has a warm personality, is likely to steal from the workplace, is trustworthy, etc.). Respondents are also asked how masculine or feminine they consider the applicant.

Summary of Findings:

The findings from this study provide support for some of the hypotheses articulated above, particularly with regard to the sexual orientation manipulation. As extant research would predict, I find that black male applicants face discrimination compared to white male applicants. However, I also find strong support for the hypothesis that gay black male applicants face less discrimination than straight black male applicants. Among white respondents who accurately received the race and sexual orientation signals, gay black male applicants received higher salary recommendations than straight black male applicants. I also find that gay black male applicants are rated as being less threatening that straight black male applicants and that the differences in this perceived threatening nature account for the higher salary recommendations that gay black men received compared to straight black men. These findings have important implications for understanding the mechanisms underlying discrimination against black men.

References

Pedulla, David S. 2014. “The Positive Consequences of Negative Stereotypes: Race, Sexual Orientation, and the Job Application Process.” Social Psychology Quarterly 77(1):75-94.


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