Access: no free online access (but currently available on netflix); YouTube preview
Summary: In this clip from Freakonomics (start 13:50; end 17:30), economist Sendhil Mullainathan discusses his (and co-author Marianne Bertrand's) 2004 field experiment that examined racial discrimination in the labor market (article here). They sent out 5,000 resumes to real job ads. Everything in the job ads were the same except that half of the names had traditionally African-American names (e.g. “Lakisha Washington” or “Jamal Jones”) and half had typical white names (e.g. “Emily Walsh” or “Greg Baker”). As they illustrate, people with African-American-sounding names have to send out 50% more resumes to get the same number of callbacks as people with white-sounding names. In the video, everyday people also discuss how others make assumptions about a person's race based on their name. This is important to understanding how racial stratification is reproduced through the labor market, and explains part of the racial gap in income. This study is further supported by Devah Pager's (2003) classic audit study, where she documented similar effects of racial discrimination through in-person applications. These studies also highlight the importance of affirmative action policies in attempting to level the playing field (although Bertrand and Mullainathan's study showed federal contractors did not favor applicants with African-American sounding names). The video can also be used in a methods class to illustrate field experiments. Note that this is the second post on The Sociological Cinema, which draws from the film Freakonomics.
Submitted By: Paul Dean