Employers discriminate against applicants with non-English names, study suggests

May 20, 2009

A new University of British Columbia study finds that job applicants with English names have a greater chance of getting interviews than those with Chinese, Indian or Pakistani names.

The study, which sent thousands of resumés to Canadian employers, found those with English names like Jill Wilson or John Martin received interview callbacks 40 per cent more often than identical resumes with names like Sana Khan or Lei Li.

The findings suggest that Canadians and immigrants with non-English names face discrimination by employers and help to explain why skilled immigrants arriving under Canada's point system - with university degrees and significant work experience - fare poorly in today's labour market.

"The findings suggest that a distinct foreign-sounding name may be a significant disadvantage on the job market - even if you are a second- or third-generation citizen," says UBC Economics Prof. Philip Oreopoulos, whose working paper was released today by Metropolis BC, part of an international immigration and diversity research network.

For the study, 6,000 mock resumés were constructed to represent recent immigrants and Canadians with and without non-English names. They were tailored to job requirements and sent to 2,000 online job postings from employers across 20 occupational categories in the Greater Toronto Area, Canada's largest and most multicultural city.

Each resumé listed a bachelor's degree and four to six years of experience, with name and domestic or foreign education and work experience randomly assigned.

"If employers are engaging in name-based discrimination, they may be contravening the Human Rights Act," says Oreopoulos, who adds that more research is needed to determine whether the behaviour is intentional. "They may also be missing out on hiring the best person for the job."

Another key finding is that employers appear to prefer Canadian work experience over Canadian education. For resumés with foreign names and education, callbacks nearly doubled with the addition of just one previous job in Canada.

"This suggests policies that prioritize Canadian experience or help new immigrants find initial domestic might significantly increase their chances," he says.

Oreopoulos - who is affiliated with National Bureau of Economic Research and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research - hopes the study's findings will help to improve current immigration and diversity practices.

More information: Download the study at: riim.metropolis.net/research/working/index.html .

Source: University of British Columbia (news : web)

Explore further: Researchers reveal relationships between rare languages in the Colombian Amazon

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

What's in a name? Perhaps more (or less) money

Mar 10, 2009

Before employers have a chance to judge job applicants on their merits, they may have already judged them on the sound of their names. According to a study published in the latest issue of the Journal of Labor Economics, immigr ...

Study Shows 'We Are What We Eat'

Sep 29, 2008

What Canadians choose to put on the dinner table helps define who they are, according to a bi-coastal study by University of British Columbia and Dalhousie University researchers.

Studies refute common stereotypes about obese workers

Jul 18, 2008

New research led by a Michigan State University scholar refutes commonly held stereotypes that overweight workers are lazier, more emotionally unstable and harder to get along with than their "normal weight" colleagues.

Recommended for you

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

KBK
not rated yet May 21, 2009
Not surprising.

employers have to look out for the rest of their employees, the work environment, and the company's success.

Playing it safe -- falls into the category of doing as they have observed. Right or wrong it's a very basic thing.

It isn't discrimination, its a modicum of common sense realities applied to a situation where there is a level of 'fit risk' for the employer -- and the job seeker as well. Many times -or even most times- it is not the risk or potential problem they may think it is...but ..there you go. It is what it is.

I personally prefer a diverse workplace.

More news stories

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

Ebola virus in Africa outbreak is a new strain

The Ebola virus that has killed scores of people in Guinea this year is a new strain—evidence that the disease did not spread there from outbreaks in some other African nations, scientists report.