Sunday, May 14, 2006

White ex-cons as likely to find work than black men with no criminal record

By Brenda Porter

April 27, 2006 -- A study from a team of Princeton University sociology professors revealed that race and criminal history continue to play a role in gaining employment.

As part of the study, which began in February 2004, 13 applicants went on nearly 3,500 job interviews with 1,470 private companies. All jobs were entry level.

The men were given the same qualifications and experience, while criminal history was randomly assigned. The most striking results of the study were that white males with criminal records were just as likely as blacks with no criminal history to find employment. Also, having a criminal record reduced the number of positive responses from employers by 57% for black applicants but only by 35% for their white counterparts. Latinos also fared better than blacks.

"A felony conviction confers roughly the same penalty to job applicants as does minority status," wrote Professors Devah Pager and Bruce Western in Discrimination in Low-Wage Labor Markets. "These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that employer discrimination along the lines of race, ethnicity, and criminal conviction status remains a salient source of inequality in contemporary urban labor markets."

Gerald D. Jaynes, a member of the BLACK ENTERPRISE Board of Economists, says he is not surprised by the results. "What's going on here is the employer thinks, 'I have a young white man who made a mistake. I can give him a second chance. On the other hand I have a young black man who grew up in the ghetto committing crime and I don't want to take a chance,'" says Jaynes.

Western says he hopes the study highlights these issues to the entire nation. "I hope our research can alert people to the problems of discrimination," he says.