A BOY NAMED SUE

sugarmama links a study saying people with unusual names have trouble getting hired in corporate America:

A professor of economics at Harvard discusses how unusual black American naming conventions decreases the unfortunately named’s chances of getting hired.

He states that distinctive “black” names are an indicator of low socioeconomic status. In other words, if your parents named you something stupid like “Clitoris” or “Sasquatchataniqueeia” is an obvious cue to those who review resumes that your parents were uneducated and poor. The HR people will pass you up for someone named “John” or “Susan”.

If employers believe, rightly or wrongly, that such a background lowers the chance of job success, this may help explain why audit studies find that employers react negatively to black-sounding names on resumes, which contain current education but little other socioeconomic information.

This isn’t surprising, I suppose. And while part of this may be racism, I suspect, as noted by a commenter to the post, that those named Dweezil or Moon Unit would have similar problems.

The National Basketball Association, however, would seem to be a major outlyer in this trend.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Paul says:

    I have an unusual (german) sir name and people find it off putting.

    Forgetting the racial/socioeconomic angle for a second, people like things they can pronounce.

  2. Cam says:

    I suspect I’d never hire someone named Clitoris either. Something tells me I’d have a hard time locating her when I needed to.

  3. Ian S. says:

    I kinda enjoy names that apparently were picked to set the child’s path. Do you suppose Lawyer Milloy’s parents are disappointed that he’s an NFL player instead of a lawyer? How about Priest Holmes?

  4. triticale says:

    The names used in the research which this professor was referencing were not that extreme, so the examples here amount to a distortion. A sociology class at Northwestern send out a large number of resumes in response to help wanted ads in Milwaukee. What they found was that for every 15 responses “Emily” got, “Lakeisha” only got 10 with an identical resume. My complaint about this study is that they did not control for class. My suggestion has been that “SueEllen” should also be included in the study. The original conclusion, which this econ professor appears to be questioning, is that the difference was based purely on race.