Intersections of Race- and Class-Based Discrimination in the U.S. Labor Market

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Date and Time: 
Thursday, December 1, 2016
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Kyla Thomas

Racial discrimination remains a formidable obstacle to labor market equality in the United States today.  Black men earn 70 percent the median income of similarly qualified white men and are 50 percent less likely to receive an employer response to a job application.  The challenge for researchers and policymakers is understanding why—why do employers discriminate against black job applicants?  To account for racial discrimination, sociologists typically point to racial animus or racial stereotyping among employers. Often overlooked are the subtle forms of class bias black Americans also encounter as they apply for jobs. In the United States, conceptions of race and social class are heavily intertwined and qualitative studies show that employers’ negative beliefs about black Americans are often informed by the widespread assumption that they are lower class.  Whether patterns of racial discrimination intersect with and may be explained by class-based discrimination, however, has never been quantitatively measured. And so, the literature continues to obscure what may be a key mechanism of racial inequality in the United States. I will address this empirical gap through a field-experimental study of the social class biases that drive racial discrimination in employment.  This project is in the early stages of development so I look forward to discussion and feedback.