Photos with different ethnicities

Ethnic discrimination in a segmented labor market – when and where does discrimination occur?

Within which occupations is discrimination of applicants by ethnicity more common? We examine differences in discrimination and seek knowledge about what mechanisms lie behind this.

A study using data from three field experiments

The aim of this project is

  • to investigate if employer discrimination by ethnicity varies across industries, occupations, and sectors in the labor market and
  • to explore some of the potential mechanisms behind any such variation.

Previous studies typically show that employers on average are reluctant to hire job seekers with “foreign” names. These results refer, however, to data based on aggregates of very different jobs and a drawback is the low statistical power when results are broken down by segments of the labor market. Thus, studies indicating employer ethnic discrimination on the aggregate level may hide the absence of discrimination in certain segments, or a heightened risk of discrimination in other segments.

We employ an experimental correspondence test design, and send fictitious applications, with ethnicity randomly assigned, to announced job openings in the labor market. To achieve a sufficient number of cases, i.e. statistical power, to enable segment specific analyses of employer callbacks to these applications, we pool three data sets with around 7,100 job applications in total.

We will explore underlying mechanisms by relating heterogeneity in employer discrimination to the following factors: labor demand, demographic composition, and qualification level.

The results of the project are highly relevant to knowledge on discrimination and mechanisms behind employment differences between persons with a foreign and a native background.



Principal Investigator

Moa Bursell Associate Professor in Sociology and research leader at the Institute for Futures Studies

Project members

Magnus Bygren Professor, Sociology


Swedish Research Council