While racial discrimination in hiring plagues many developed countries, one nation may have particular trouble bidding it adieu.
France has the highest level of hiring discrimination against non-white groups, according to a meta-analysis of data from nine countries published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Sociological Science. Researchers analyzed findings from 97 hiring field experiments that included more than 200,000 job applications.
“In every country we consider, nonwhite applicants suffer significant disadvantage in receiving callbacks for interviews compared with white natives with similar job-relevant characteristics,” the study authors wrote. “This difference is driven by race, not immigrant status.”
While white immigrants also experience discrimination compared to white natives, that difference tended to be small and not statistically significant. With respect to hiring, they added, “some countries do discriminate more than others.”
France’s aversion to measuring or discussing race and ethnicity in official capacities doesn’t seem to have paid off in reducing discrimination, the authors wrote.
“The French do not measure race or ethnicity in any official — or most unofficial capacities — which makes knowledge of racial and ethnic inequality in France very limited and makes it difficult to monitor hiring or promotion for discrimination,” study co-author Lincoln Quillian, a sociology professor at Northwestern University, said in a statement.
The U.S., on the other hand, requires large employers to report their racial and ethnic makeup to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Quillian pointed out. Corporate diversity initiatives abound in the U.S., as do affirmative action programs.
The researchers determined each country’s “discrimination ratio” by calculating the ratio of the percentage of job-application callbacks white natives received versus that of minority applicants — in other words, “the number of applications that must be submitted by a minority applicant to expect an equal chance of a callback as a white applicant.”
Sweden had the next-highest discrimination ratio after France, followed by Canada, Great Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and the U.S. Field experiments from Germany showed the lowest levels of hiring discrimination, though its difference in discrimination ratio from the U.S. wasn’t statistically significant.
White applicants in France and Sweden received between 65% and 100% more job callbacks than non-white minorities on average, the researchers found, while white applicants in Germany, the U.S. and Norway got between 20% and 40% more callbacks than their non-white counterparts.
Discrimination levels against folks of African, Middle Eastern/North African and Asian descent were about equal, the study found. People of Asian descent in the sample were largely South Asian.
These findings shouldn’t be generalized to a country’s overall tendency toward discrimination, the authors said, as they specifically concern hiring. For example, Germany ranked low for hiring discrimination, but the country doesn’t fare as well on housing discrimination.
Employees in Germany are required to include “far more extensive background information” in job applications, even dating back to high school — a policy, the researchers suggested, that may help lessen discrimination.
“We suspect that this is why we find low discrimination in Germany — that having a lot of information at [the] first application reduces the tendency to view minority applicants as less good or unqualified,” Quillian said.