The Strength of Whites’ Ties: How Employers Reward the Referrals of Black and White Jobseekers

Source: Fabiana Silva, Social Forces, Volume 97, Issue 2, December 2018
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From the abstract:
Sociologists commonly point to jobseekers’ racially segregated networks and employers’ discriminatory behavior to explain racial inequality in employment. Network scholars argue that, given segregated networks and black and white employees’ unequal position in the labor market, employers’ reliance on employee referrals reproduces black disadvantage. Scholars of discrimination focus instead on employers’ unequal treatment of equally qualified black and white jobseekers. Drawing on an original experiment with a sample of white individuals with hiring responsibilities, I seek to bridge these literatures by examining whether respondents’ racial prejudice affects how they reward employee referrals of black and white applicants from black and white employees. I use a measure of implicit prejudice that is resistant to social desirability and that can capture biases among people who genuinely believe they are unbiased. Whether evaluated by low-prejudiced or high-prejudiced respondents, white applicants benefit greatly from same-race referrals. In contrast, black applicants do not benefit from same-race referrals, even when they are evaluated by low-prejudiced respondents. In fact, black applicants only benefit from having a referral when two conditions are met: the referring employee is white and they are evaluated by a relatively low-prejudiced respondent. These findings suggest that in addition to their disadvantage in access to employee referrals, black jobseekers suffer from a disadvantage in returns to these referrals.