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Comparative Perspectives on Racial Discrimination in Hiring: The Rise of Field Experiments (WP-20-46)

Lincoln Quillian and Arnfinn Midtbøen

This article reviews studies of discrimination against racial and ethnic minority groups in hiring in cross-national comparative perspective. The authors focus on field-experimental studies of hiring discrimination: studies that use fictitious applications from members of different racial and ethnic groups to apply for actual jobs. There are more than 140 field experimental studies of hiring discrimination against ethno-racial minority groups in 30 countries. These studies show that racial and ethnic discrimination is a pervasive international phenomenon that has hardly declined over time, although levels vary significantly over countries. The comparative perspective from this body of research helps to move beyond micro-models of employer decision-making to better understand the roles of history, social context, institutional rules, and racist ideologies in producing discrimination. Some racial discrimination is driven by correlated conditions like religion, but the clues producing most discrimination on these bases are fundamentally racialized. Studies suggest that institutional rules regarding race and ethnicity in hiring can have an important influence on levels of discrimination. Suggestions for future research on discrimination are discussed.

This working paper is forthcoming in Annual Review of Sociology.

Lincoln Quillian, Professor of Sociology and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

Arnfinn Midtbøen, Associate Professor of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo

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