Institute for Economic and Social Research

Jinan Lecture | Patrick Kline, UC Berkeley


Time: Feb. 8 (Tue.), 11:00 am – 12:00 pm (Beijing Time)

Title: Systemic Discrimination Among Large U.S. Employers

About the Speaker:

Patrick Kline is a Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley and a faculty research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.  His research focuses on the determinants of wage inequality and the effectiveness of public policies designed to combat inequality.  Dr. Kline is a fellow of the Econometric Society and serves as foreign editor of the Review of Economic Studies and an associate editor at Econometrica and at the American Economic Journal: Applied.  Dr. Kline is a leading expert on the economics of imperfectly competitive labor markets, place-based policies, and program evaluation methods. In 2018 he was awarded the Sherwin Rosen Prize for outstanding contributions to the field of labor economics and in 2021 he won the IZA Young Labor Economist award for his contributions to empirical methodology in labor economics.


We study the results of a massive nationwide correspondence experiment sending more than 83,000 fictitious applications with randomized characteristics to geographically dispersed jobs posted by 108 of the largest U.S. employers. Distinctively Black names reduce the probability of employer contact by 2.1 percentage points relative to distinctively white names. The magnitude of this racial gap in contact rates differs substantially across firms, exhibiting a between-company standard deviation of 1.9 percentage points. Despite an insignificant average gap in contact rates between male and female applicants, we find a between-company standard deviation in gender contact gaps of 2.7 percentage points, revealing that some firms favor male applicants while others favor women. Company-specific racial contact gaps are temporally and spatially persistent, and negatively correlated with firm profitability, federal contractor status, and a measure of recruiting centralization. Discrimination exhibits little geographical dispersion, but two digit industry explains roughly half of the cross-firm variation in both racial and gender contact gaps. Contact gaps are highly concentrated in particular companies, with firms in the top quintile of racial discrimination responsible for nearly half of lost contacts to Black applicants in the experiment. Controlling false discovery rates to the 5% level, 23 individual companies are found to discriminate against Black applicants. Our findings establish that systemic illegal discrimination is concentrated among a select set of large employers, many of which can be identified with high confidence using large scale inference methods.


Copyright © 2019 Institute for Economic and Social Research ICP record No.: Yue ICP Bei No. 12087612