I've now read this paper. The unaddressed issue that pervades the experiment is why the bias exists. There are a number of flaws in the experimental design but I'm not interested in dissecting them. The bias question is more interesting to me.
Originally Posted by teamosil
The researchers make note of previous studies. Here is one:
Hiring decisions are influenced by a complex range of factors, racial attitudes being only one. The stated preferences of employers, then, leave uncertain the degree to which negative attitudes about blacks translate into active forms of discrimination.
Indeed, other research focusing on wages rather than employment reports even less evidence of contemporary discrimination. Derek Neal and William Johnson (1996), for example, estimate wage differences between white, black, and Latino young men. They find that two-thirds of the black-white gap in wages in 1990-1991 can be explained by race differences in cognitive test scores measured 11 years earlier; test scores fully explain wage differences between whites and Latinos.
This factor was not controlled for in this experiment. We don't know how employers were perceiving the white, black and latino job applicants in terms of intelligence and ability to problem solve on the job. The research show that there is no wage discrimination between whites and latinos when IQ is controlled for and though this study shows that there is some variance in wages between blacks and whites of the same IQ, two other, large sample size multi-year studies showed that the wage variance disappeared between whites and blacks when IQ is controlled.
This sets up an interesting question. Is the employer market divided between those who discriminate at the point of hiring or does the discrimination continue even after hiring. This wage data clearly suggests that there is no wage discrimination when IQ is controlled for - that seems like a pretty non-discriminatory environment to me. Now how likely is it that every black and latino who took part in these large wage-IQ studies just managed to be working for employers who do not discriminate at the point of hiring? I think that such an outcome would be an astounding roll of the dice.
So we're still left with a world where employers don't discriminate against existing employees but there could exist some employers who do discriminate against applicants in the interview stage. Maybe, maybe not.
Second, low-wage labor markets today are characterized by increasing heterogeneity of the urban minority work force, with low-skill African American workers now more likely to compete with other minority groupsólow-skill Latino workers, in particular. Interviews with employers in Los Angeles and Chicago suggest consistent preferences for Latinos over African Americans, with Latino workers viewed as more pliant, reliable, and hard-working (Waldinger & Lichter, 2003; Kirschenman & Neckerman, 1991). Given these racial preferences among employers, growing competition within the low-wage labor market may leave black men vulnerable to discrimination relative not only to whites, but increasingly from Latinos as well.
And this is a huge gaping hole in the whole discrimination debate. Are employers acting rationally when they employ discrimination if they are acting on stereotypes which are accurate representations of group-level behavior. This paper doesn't have anything to say about whether employer perceptions on Latinos being more "pliant, reliable and hard-working" are accurate. All three attributes are desired by employers. There are costs that fall on an employer when he has to deal with an employee who is not performing to par. The surest way to avoid incurring such costs is to not hire employees who perform at sub-par levels. How can an employer determine what an employee will do in the future? He can't. He can guess though. It's quite likely that guesses are based on past experience and the observations of what is happening in other workplaces.
The problem this situation creates is that it imposes costs on the individual for factors that are not under the individual's control. It's quite likely that a Latino job applicant is going to be more reliable and more pliable and more hard working than an African American job applicant but this is not assured. On the other side of the coin are the interests of the employer - he cannot have perfect information. The more thorough the information he collects the more costly it becomes for him. How much duty does he owe to individual applicants to be fair and judge them on their own merits when the costs of wrong bets fall almost entirely on him?
If the stereotype is accurate, then can we, or should we, fault the employer for acting in his self-interest by observing the stereotype. If the stereotype is accurate and it imposes costs on black applicants, then how should we apportion blame between the employers and black culture and the behavior of the individual blacks who give basis to the stereotype?
What academic studies seek to do is create conditions where all factors are controlled so that a relationship between the factors that are the focus of the study can be examined. This study doesn't quite meet that threshold because it leaves hanging in the air the issue of how employers view white, Latino and black workers in terms of what they will do for the employer in terms of working hard, being reliable and not causing trouble at work.
So where does this leave us? Well, it doesn't deliver the Holy Grail that liberals think it does. It's kind of like looking at present wage disparity between whites and blacks and assuming that it is caused by discrimination when in fact it reflects differing levels of intelligence between the two groups. This study tells us that discrimination occurs, but not why. Is it rational discrimination which works to the employer's interests or is there non-rational discrimination taking place.
In terms of remedy, if there is rational discrimination taking place then I find it difficult to tell employers that they have to act in an irrational manner and discount signals which guide them in minimizing costs and disruptions in their workplace. The solution to this problem is to be found in the black community repairing its reputation by developing better work habits so that employers come to see blacks as being the equal of Latinos and whites when it comes to reliability, agreeableness and willingness to work hard.