Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Background checks lead to...hiring more African Americans?

person questioning
From the "that's counter-intuitive" file comes a study in the October issue of the Journal of Law and Economics.

The researchers crunched survey data from over 3,000 establishments in four U.S. metropolitan areas -- Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, and Los Angeles. There are quite a few interesting results in this paper, but perhaps the most eye-popping one is that employers that did a criminal background check for the most recently filled position were MORE likely to hire an African American applicant. Specifically, 8.5% more likely (statistically significant at the .01 level for you stat geeks).

"Well, okay, sure, but that's because of the position being filled. The jobs that require criminal background checks are more likely to have African American applicants," you say. (Or at least, that's what I said) And that's true. But here's the thing: the result sticks even after controlling for proportion of black applicants.

So what's going on? The researchers conclude that this is evidence that in the absence of cold, hard, data folks fall back on discriminatory decision making styles.

What do I think? I think I'm going to spend the $6 to buy the article. And I think this could provide additional support for doing background checks. Just make sure you know what you're doing.

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