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Harvard study shows discrimination against gay job applicants

Tuesday, October 4, 2011
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Men seeking employment in the southern and midwestern United States were less likely to be hired if they appeared to be gay, versus applicants who displayed stereotypical heterosexual characteristics, according to a new study conducted by Harvard researcher András Tilcsik.

András Tilcsik

Tilcsik’s research team sent a pair of resumes to 1,769 employment listings for office or managerial positions in seven states. One resume listed relevant job experience as a treasurer for a university LGBTQ society, the other resume in each pair was randomly assigned experience in a control organization.

The results, published this week in the American Journal of Sociology, revealed that the resume without the gay reference had an 11.5 per cent chance of the applicant called in for an employment interview.

Conversely, the resume listing the gay society experience had only a 7.2 per cent chance. The difference amounted to a 40 per cent higher chance of the heterosexual applicant getting a call.

The researchers discovered that there were minimal differences found in typical employer interest and callback ratios for the for Western and North-Eastern states, however states in the South and Midwest – Florida, Ohio and Texas – had the largest differences in callback rates.

“The results indicate that gay men encounter significant barriers in the hiring process because, at the initial point of contact, employers more readily disqualify openly gay applicants than equally qualified heterosexual applicants.

“It seems, therefore, that the discrimination documented in this study is partly rooted in specific stereotypes and cannot be completely reduced to a general antipathy against gay employees,” Tilcsik wrote.

Tilcsik’s said his research is “the first large-scale audit study of discrimination against openly gay men in the United States.”

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