Foreign Accents in the Early Hiring Process : A Field Experiment on Accent-Related Ethnic Discrimination in Germany

Faculty/Professorship: Social Structure Analysis  
Author(s): Schmaus, Miriam  ; Kristen, Cornelia  
Title of the Journal: International Migration Review : IMR
ISSN: 0197-9183
Corporate Body: Center for Migration Studies of New York, Inc.
Publisher Information: Thousand Oaks, CA : Sage
Year of publication: 2021
Volume: 56
Issue: 2
Pages: 155-163
Language(s): English
DOI: 10.1177/01979183211042004
Based on a field experiment conducted in Germany between October 2014 and October 2015, this article focuses on the disadvantages associated with the presence of a foreign accent in the early hiring process, when applicants call in response to a job advertisement to ask whether the position is still available. We examine whether a foreign accent influences employers’ behaviors via productivity considerations and/or whether foreign-accented speech is related to statistical discrimination or tastes among employers or customers that translate into differential treatment. To address these processes, we supplement our field-experimental data with information on job and firm characteristics from the texts of vacancy announcements and advertising companies’ homepages, on labor supply from the Federal Employment Agency, and on anti-immigrant attitudes from the German General Social Survey. Results suggest that while calling with a Turkish name did not result in a lower rate of positive replies, this rate was reduced for candidates who called with a Turkish accent. Turkish-accented applicants were told more often than the advertised position was already filled. Our findings suggest that the difference in response rates was not due to productivity considerations related to how well individuals understood foreign-accented speakers. Instead, results support the notion that the observed disadvantages were linked to discrimination based on employers’ ethnic tastes. While we found no indications pointing to the relevance of customer tastes or statistical discrimination, we cannot rule out these processes altogether. Our findings demonstrate that language cues can be more relevant than applicants’ names in shaping employers’ initial responses. They, thereby, highlight the need to consider multiple ethnic cues and different stages of the hiring process.
GND Keywords: Deutschland; Personalauwahl; Diskriminierung; Akzent
Keywords: foreign accent, discrimination, field experiment
DDC Classification: 330 Economics  
RVK Classification: QV 220   
Peer Reviewed: Ja
International Distribution: Ja
Type: Article
Release Date: 16. November 2021