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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Screening Names Instead of Qualifications: Testing with Emailed Resumes Reveals Racial Preferences


In today’s California, Asian Americans and Arab Americans have diminished employment opportunities because employment agencies focus on their names, not qualifications. The Discrimination Research Center has documented the response rates to resumes submitted on behalf of men and women who have equal qualifications and ethnically identifiable names of Asian American, Arab American, Latino, African American and white backgrounds. Although potentially illegal and certainly unacceptable, results that showed that individuals with Arab or South Asian names, especially men, received the lowest response rates to their resumes were not particularly surprising in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 and subsequent changes in world affairs. Local animosity and antagonism ranging from discrimination to violence in response to events in the Middle East are well known and fit a historic pattern. Other statistically significant results showing Asian Americans receiving far fewer responses than white women applicants despite their comparable resumes suggest the persistence of long-held perceptions of Asian Americans as “foreigners”, not capable of “fitting in”, and reluctant to complain when wronged. Asian American community organizations and leaders may wish to replicate DRC testing in other parts of the United States or utilize these research results as a basis for workplace advocacy and litigation.

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