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A test for racial discrimination in recruitment practice in British cities

Racial discrimination
Researchers: Martin Wood
Published: April 2010

Aim

We tested for racial discrimination in recruitment practices and found that people from ethnic minorities were less likely to be successful with their applications, even discounting differences such as age and education.

Findings

The level of name-based racial discrimination was found to be high across all ethnic groups. This is consistent with the high levels of discrimination found in studies in other countries in recent years.

  • To secure a job interview, we had to send out 74% more applications for ethnic minority candidates compared to white candidates.
  • Discrimination affected all minority ethnic groups. Differences between the minority ethnic groups included in the study (black African, black Caribbean, Chinese, Indian, Pakistani/Bangladeshi) were not significant.
  • Discrimination was not limited to particular regions or occupations.  Although the numbers in our sample were small, there was evidence of similar levels of discrimination in all the cities and it was present across all the occupations included in our study.
  • There was essentially no net discrimination where the process of applying for the job required the use of the employer's own form; there was more discrimination where application was via a CV.  Employer forms are often designed so that the section containing personal details (including name) can be detached before the sifting process.

Methodology

We sent sets of equivalent applications to 987 real job vacancies across the UK under names commonly associated with minority groups. For each job, we sent three applications with equivalent background and qualifications: one used a ‘white’ name and the other two used names associated with different minority ethnic groups. The names were randomly assigned to the applications at the last stage to ensure there was no bias across the sample. 

Read the report