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Harvard study shows discrimination against gay job applicants

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

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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20 more reader comments:

  1. Really? They needed a study for this? Like, duh…

    Posted on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 10:07am
  2. Ya Think? DUH!

    Posted on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 10:08am
  3. So wait… my very heterosexual brother could be turned away from a job just because he likes to dress nice and take care of himself? *boggles*

    Posted on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 10:08am
  4. idiots

    Posted on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 10:11am
  5. They want to cut funding for education and disaster relief, but my tax dollars probably helped pay for this really un-necessary study. It’s no secret that the LGBT community is discriminated against in the ares mentioned, because that’s where so many of the bible thumpers/right wingers live.

    Posted on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 10:12am
  6. I agree with the study however; in the main Cities of TN where I live, it is not the case.

    Posted on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 10:12am
  7. I have seen it. Before I came out, I was working with a group that were taking applicants for an entry level postion. The guy? Was a perfect fit, nice, intelligent, etc. But, his application was ripped right in front me. I so regret that I did nothing. I just sat there and watched.

    Posted on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 10:17am
  8. southerners are SO gay…

    Posted on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 10:24am
  9. Not a surprise

    Posted on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 10:29am
  10. I have always thought job applicants should be issued a number. Everything the employer wanted to know would have be ask on the application. A persons name would not appear on the application,just the number. There would be no way to determine who was male,female,orentiation,race,or any other discrimatory factor. The job qualifications would be based on education and job skills. This should be how canidates are hired.

    Posted on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 10:40am
  11. “…employers may perceive openly gay applicants as tactless or lacking business savvy because they list an irrelevant experience on their résumé…” (Methods, Signaling Sexual Orientation,

    That was my first reaction, that maybe it’s not discrimination against gays so much as it is an irrelevant factoid. I’m pretty sure that in applying for an entry-level position, being a treasurer in a social-activist group isn’t particularly important; everyone knows how to use Excel by the time they leave college, and most have figured out how not to go bankrupt. (According to the study, they were entry-level positions, not “office or managerial”.)

    By contrast, the “Progressive & Socialist Alliance” sounds more like a political group than a social one, and offices in a political group are viewed to be more important in a community than offices in a social group.

    Posted on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 11:04am
  12. That shouldn’t be

    Posted on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 11:34am
  13. lol. they had to do a study to come up with this answer? idiots. lol.

    Posted on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 11:52am
  14. unfortunately, it happens EVERYWHERE.

    Posted on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 12:02pm
  15. This is amazing. I bet the next Harvard study will tell me that it is light when the sun is out and dark when it is not.

    Posted on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 12:32pm
  16. Carol, when I graded the CPA exam, every exam paper had a number and the state the exam was taken in. We did not know anything about the applicants other than what state the paper was from.

    Posted on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 12:35pm
  17. Oh come on Gary, we all know if we see a even slightly effeminate man, our preconceived charicature of gay people kick in and we automatically assume that person is gay. It’s called profiling. So yes employers do discriminate based on sexual orientation

    Posted on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 1:16pm
  18. Y’all think being discriminated against for being gay is tough, try being trans…I can’t come out at my current job bc I will b let go, and also I can’t seem to find another job due to being trans…so in a way..gays have it better than us..not tryin to b rude or nothin but it’s a fact…

    Posted on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 1:42pm
  19. so sadd……

    Posted on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 3:13pm
  20. Discrimination is so “GAY” why are people so stupid why can’t we just fuckin live??????

    Posted on Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 9:10am