The US has Relatively Low Rates of Hiring Discrimination. But you don’t believe it!

Do we have hiring issues in the US? Yes. Are many of those issues really bad? Yes. Is the US worse than most other countries? Hmmm…

There was a meta-field study done with over 200,000 job applicants (that’s a massive data sample) in 9 counties in Europe and North America. The study found there is hiring discrimination in every country, but some countries are worse than others:

What did the study find?

– The USA has one of the lower rates of discrimination while France and perhaps also Sweden have very high levels.

– If you travel the world, the findings are very surprising. If you have just sat your butt in the US, this is hard for you to comprehend with the US’s history of slavery, and you probably find this surprising. Turns out, many other parts of the world still act like discrimination isn’t happening and ignore they have a problem.

– Capitalism, in fact, is likely to predict less discrimination in hiring. Again, competitive hiring practices actually help decrease discrimination in the labor market.

The authors of this study are Lincoln Quillian, Anthony Heath, Devah Pager, Arnfinn H. Midtbøen, Fenella Fleischmann, and Ole Hexel. A very diverse group of academics from some of the top educational institutions in the world. Here is what they had to say about the study:

“National histories of slavery and colonialism are neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for a country to have relatively high levels of labor market discrimination. Some countries with colonial pasts demonstrate high rates of hiring discrimination, but several countries without extensive colonial pasts (outside Europe), such as Sweden, demonstrate similar levels. Likewise, the lower rates of discrimination against minorities in the United States than we find for many European countries seem contrary to expectations that emphasize the primacy of connection to slavery in shaping the contemporary level of national discrimination. These results do not suggest that slavery and colonialism do not matter for levels of discrimination, rather they indicate that they matter in more complex ways than suggested by theories that posit simple, direct influences of the past on current discrimination.”


“Low discrimination in Germany could be a result of distinctive hiring practices in Germany: Employees typically submit far more extensive background information at initial application than in most other countries—including, for instance, high school transcripts and reports from apprenticeships (Weichselbaumer 2016). This may reduce the tendency of employers to assume lower skills and qualifications among nonwhite applicants, which is one potential source of discrimination. If so, this suggests the importance of high levels of individual information about applicants as a method to mitigate discrimination (c.f., Wozniac 2015; Auspurg et al. 2018).”

So, France and Sweden are the most Discriminatory Countries in HIring?!

Well, not exactly. They are the most of this study of nine countries.

I would bet you would see higher rates of hiring discrimination in places like Japan, China, South Africa, etc. Why? How many non-Japanese do you see on the Japanese national team? How many non-Chinese? One non-Chinese, an American snowboarder, was in the winter Olympics, and that was the first one in their history. Now take a look at the US and the other European countries. All of them have multiple people from other countries on their national teams. Is that hiring? Nope, but it shows a willingness to welcome and evolve people from other countries in a very transparent way.

Just because other similar Capitalist countries tend to be more discriminatory in their hiring practices than the US also doesn’t make us better. There are still massive improvements that need to be made. I point all of this out because you will never see this type of study highlighted by the mainstream media most HR and TA leaders and pros read. This won’t be on CNN and Forbes. We love to act like every other country is so much better. They aren’t, and we aren’t. We are all struggling with getting better and closer to the same than most of us realize.

1 thought on “The US has Relatively Low Rates of Hiring Discrimination. But you don’t believe it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.