Foreign sounding names get you fewer job interviews?

Before employers have a chance to judge job applicants on their merits, they may have already judged them on the sound of their names. According to a study published in the latest issue of the Journal of Labor Economics, immigrants to Sweden earn more money after they change their foreign-sounding names.

Study authors Mahmood Arai and Peter Skogman Thoursie (both of Stockholm University) found an earnings increase of 141 percent for a sample of African, Asian and Slavic immigrants who changed their names to be ethnically neutral or a bit more Swedish-sounding. The earnings increase is mostly due to individuals within the group who reported little or no earnings before the name change, but significantly more shortly afterwards, the authors say.

“[W]e believe [the name change effect] stems largely from improving one’s chances of being called to a job interview and thus increasing employment probabilities,” the authors write. “Employers might sort out the applicants with foreign-sounding names due to [notions] about abilities and characteristics assumed to be associated with such names.”

Source. Via Barking up the Wrong Tree. This appears to be an ungated working paper.

8 thoughts on “Foreign sounding names get you fewer job interviews?

  1. I would believe that you would find exactly the same datas in Norway, many recruiters are reluctant to recruit people with non-western names. I guess its grounded in the fear of other cultures and lacking language skills.

  2. If I understand their identification from a quick skimming of the paper, people get jobs and change their names in the same year. They interpret this as name => job. Any reason the causality doesn’t run from job search/employment to name change?

  3. On the basis of no evidence whatsoever, I feel confident that having a foreign-sounding name will make you MORE likely to get a job interview if you control for enough variables. Suppose you’re applying for a job in academia, for example.