About the talk:

We know that race shapes employer decision-making through overt discrimination against Black applicants. Yet we know little about how employers’ consideration of applicant attributes that seem meritocratic and race-neutral indirectly contributes to racial disparities. One prominent and ostensibly race-neutral employer practice is favoring applicants with clear labor market identities. That is, a successful career is recognized as an orderly succession of similar jobs that build upon previous experiences. Employers value these clear labor market identities because this is how a career "should" look. Scholars have assumed these identities result from strategic choice. Consequently, one’s career history is considered race-neutral. Yet individuals build labor market identities within a set of circumstances that could constrain such choices. Marrying insights from the literature on job search and career specialization, Leung and Koppman theorize that Black applicants experience negative collateral effects from their job search behavior on subsequent employment outcomes. Because Black job seekers anticipate and experience discrimination, they apply to a broader range of jobs. This implies that they are more likely to apply to jobs that are less relevant to their past jobs compared to their White counterparts. As Black job seekers secure some of these jobs, they will accumulate job histories that will be less related to each other and build a less focused career. This creates and sustains a disadvantage for Black job seekers in subsequent employment searches since career relevance and focus are valued by employers. Leung and Koppman test and find support for this argument using over 400,000 job applications for all 3,600 publicly posted jobs over 5 years at two US technology companies. The job search behavior Black applicants use to address employment discrimination in the short-term triggers and sustains longer-term disadvantages. They will discuss the theoretical ramifications for this instantiation of structural racial discrimination in employment, career specialization, and inter-organizational careers.

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