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Employers In Conservative Locales More Likely to Disciminate Based on Social Media Profiles

by Nov 27, 2013, 9:05 am ET

Social media bias findingEmployers who background their job applicants on social media are more likely to discriminate against Muslims, an effect that is even more pronounced in conservative states and localities.

The study by Carnegie Mellon University researchers involved thousands of fictitious resumes and dummied-up Facebook profiles to portray candidates as either Muslim or Christian. A second part of the experiment involved candidates whose profiles indicated they were either straight or gay.

Muslim candidates, the researchers found, received far fewer interview invitations in states and locales considered conservative than did their otherwise identical Christian counterparts. No similar effect was noted in the comparison of gay and straight candidates.

“We find more extensive bias against the Muslim candidate than the gay candidate, and significantly more bias among employers in Republican states than employers in non-Republican states,” say researchers Alessandro Acquisti, associate professor of information technology and public policy at CMU’s H. John Heinz III College, and Christina Fong, senior research scientist at CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Overall, Muslim candidates got 14 percent fewer interview opportunities than did the Christian candidates. But, because as recruiters and job seekers know, getting a call for an interview is so rare, the researchers say the difference is not statistically significant. “However,” the researchers say in the study, “We find evidence of discrimination linked to political party affiliation.”

According to their findings, “In more Republican-leaning states, only 2 percent of applications by the Muslim candidate received interview invitations compared to 17 percent for the Christian candidate.”

Locales were considered conservative based on whether the Republican or Democrat candidate won the popular vote in the 2012 presidential election. Of the 50 states, the researchers segmented the data into the 10 most strongly Democratic states, 10 most Republican, and classified the balance as mixed.

The Christian candidates had a clear advantage in the 10 most strongly Republican states — Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming. However, there was no perceptible difference between gay and straight candidates.

Social media bias application distributionIt’s worth noting that the 10 conservative states cumulatively had fewer posted job openings than did other parts of the country.

When the researchers analyzed the data by county, they found a similar result: 8 percent of the Muslim candidates were invited for an interview compared to 21 percent for Christian candidates. The county-level data, report the researchers, “show no evidence of discrimination against the gay candidate.”

“Our survey and field experiments show statistically significant evidence of hiring bias originating from information candidates shared on their online profiles,” Fong said. “Both by itself and controlling for a host of demographic and firm variables, our Muslim candidate was less likely to receive an interview invitation compared to our Christian candidate in more politically conservative states and counties.”

Although Acquisti and Fong have no way of knowing how many or which of the employers actually did a search of social media before deciding whether to interview the candidates, they estimate that between 10 percent and 33% percent of the employers did. Their estimate is derived in part from the way the study was conducted; religious affiliation and sexual orientation could only be deduced from the social profiles. Prior to submitting some 4,000 job applications, they conducted an online survey asking participants to review both resumes and the manipulated profiles. The questionnaire they completed tested their biases.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Joe Pacini

    It is garbage like this that is a massive waste of time and money and does nothing but cause chaos and destruction. If you cannot speak the truth and keep your position – then step down. Weak and simple-minded boys and girls that are mere puppets for the powers that be should not be doing men’s and women’s work!

  • Brian McIntyre

    Boo. This terrible article based on purely upon fiction and assumptions by two IT people who know nothing of recruiting or doing real work outside academia. Please don’t publish baseless junk like this that clearly has an agenda and is terribly divisive.

  • Rugshana Madatt

    Many people have Arabic names but are in fact Christian or Hindu or even Jewish. As an academic I also suspect this was propaganda and as a Muslim woman I’m glad to hear that the American people are not as gullible as their media and government would like them to be. We the true Muslims are all in favour of world peace. If women were ruling this planet we would actually achieve such peace. However, no matter what we, the majority of human beings want governments are still in charge. I doubt that wars will ever become extinct until the human race does.