Screening for Honesty and Motivation in the Workplace: What Can Affirmative Action Do? (Thomas Weisskopf Festschrift Conference Paper)
Elaine McCrate | 2/5/2013

McCrate explains how employers frequently rely on racial and ethnic stereotypes to compensate for the fact that they cannot easily obtain various sorts of important information about job candidates, despite the fact that such practices constitute statistical discrimination. She finds that African American job applicants in particular suffer from statistical discrimination, especially in assessing their honesty and level of motivation, two important traits that are particularly difficult for employers to assess. McCrate describes how, to avoid relying on racial stereotypes, some employers have adopted a variety of screening tools to measure honesty and motivation. But she argues that racial stereotyping in hiring has persisted nevertheless.

To explain why this occurs, McCrate describes each of several steps in the hiring process. To begin with, McCrate shows that the results of the screening tests may not be reliable. But even if the test results are broadly reliable, an employer may, for example, discount a test result showing that a black applicant has high integrity if the employer holds negative stereotypes about blacks. McCrate concludes by considering the potential for affirmative action policies to break through such employment barriers. She argues that stronger affirmative action policies could be helpful, if they are combined with a commitment to full employment and an attack against the biases faced by African Americans in the criminal justice system.

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