Harvard University Photo: MGN-Online
Even with a degree from one of America’s best institutions racism will still meet you at the hiring door.
Dr. S. Michael Gaddis, a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan and assistant professor of sociology at Pennsylvania State University researched how racial inequality in economic outcomes, particularly among the college educated, persists throughout U.S. society.
“The results show that although a credential from an elite university results in more employer responses for all candidates, Black candidates from elite universities only do as well as White candidates from less selective universities,” he explained.
“Moreover, race results in a double penalty: When employers respond to Black candidates, it is for jobs with lower starting salaries and lower prestige than those of White peers. These racial differences suggest that a bachelor’s degree, even one from an elite institution, cannot fully counteract the importance of race in the labor market. Thus, both discrimination and differences in human capital contribute to racial economic inequality.”
In his research, Dr. Gaddis applied for 1,008 jobs on a national job search website using fake names and backgrounds. These job seekers graduated from either elite schools like (Princeton University, Columbia University and Dartmouth University) or less selective state universities (the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the University of California at Riverside and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro). Candidates had similarly high grade point averages.
Each were given names to alert to potential employers what their races were—Black males were named Jalen, Lamar and DaQuan; Black females were named Nia, Ebony and Shanice; White males were named Caleb, Charlie and Ronny; and White females were named Aubrey, Erica and Lesly.
“Overall, these results suggest that employers strongly value a degree from an elite university but also discriminate against candidates with Black names. An additional area of inquiry is how these variables work together. For instance, can Black candidates close the gap with White candidates when they have a degree from an elite university compared to a degree from a less selective university?” asked Dr. Gaddis.
The short answer is no.
“A White candidate with a degree from an elite university can expect an employer response for every six résumés submitted, while an equally qualified Black candidate must submit eight résumés to receive a response; White candidates with a degree from a less selective university need to submit nine résumés to expect a response, while a similar Black candidate needs to submit 15 résumés to receive a response.”
For decades education has been touted as the path to success for Blacks and other low income communities. Studies show that having a college degree does ensure higher earnings over a high school diploma when there is a “level playing field” as Rev. Jesse Jackson has called for. But once again, with racism, the field for Blacks is anything but level.
“In Message To The Blackman In America,” in the chapter ‘Program and Position,’ the Honorable Elijah Muhammad said, ‘We do not believe that America will ever be able to furnish enough jobs for her own millions of unemployed in addition to jobs for the 20,000,000 Black people.’ We’re going to have to think about this man again. Look at him again because everything he taught us would happen is happening,” said the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan last month.
“I want to talk to you now about our future; America is in this so-called global economy, with a service-oriented economy where people, now, have to be re-educated to be technically savvy to fit in to even find a job in today’s world. You send your children to college and you expect that their college education is going to get them a job.”
That expectation is further challenged when Blacks have difficulty even getting an interview.
“Black candidates face a double penalty of discrimination in the labor market. Not only are they less likely to receive a response than white candidates, but the jobs that are potentially available to them are listed with 10 percent lower starting salary ranges. Conversely, candidates with a degree from an elite university get a double bonus from their educational credentials in the labor market in the forms of more responses and 8–13 percent higher listed salary ranges,” explained Dr. Geddis.
“In sum, one out of every four responses for a White candidate was for a high-value occupation, while one out of every six responses for a Black candidate was for a high-value occupation,” he said.
“Additionally, when Black candidates receive responses, they are for jobs with lower listed salaries and less often for managerial or analyst jobs. Thus, even if we assume that Black candidates could simply work harder and apply to many more jobs than their White counterparts, inequality would still pervade the labor market.”
Special to the NNPA from The Final Call