Department of Sociology

Michael Gaddis - "Discrimination in the Credential Society: An Audit Study of Race, Class, and College Selectivity in the Labor Market"

Mon, November 5, 2012 | BUR 214

12:00 PM

Abstract: Racial inequality in economic outcomes, particularly among the college educated, persists throughout U.S. society.  Scholars debate whether this inequality stems from racial differences in human capital (e.g. college selectivity, GPA, major) or employer discrimination against black job candidates. However, limited measures of human capital and the inherent difficulties in measuring discrimination using observational data make determining the cause of racial differences in labor market outcomes a difficult endeavor.  This project examines employment opportunities for white and black graduates of elite top-ranked universities versus less selective institutions. I use an experimental computerized audit design to create matched candidate pairs and apply for 1,008 jobs on a national job search website. The results show that although a credential from an elite university results in more call-backs for all candidates, black candidates from elite universities only do as well as white candidates from less selective universities.  Moreover, race results in a double penalty: when employers respond to black candidates it is for jobs with lower starting salaries than those of white peers.  These racial differences in response rates and starting salary ranges suggest that a bachelor’s degree, even one from an elite institution, cannot fully counteract the importance of race in U.S. society.  Thus, both discrimination and differences in human capital contribute to racial economic inequality.

Bio: S. Michael Gaddis ( is a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a 2012-13 National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellow.  His research explores the importance of social background and demographic characteristics vs. education in alleviating or exacerbating inequality.  A number of his projects use innovative online data collection methods to examine individual social action.  His work has been published in the American Journal of Sociology, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Social Forces, and Social Science Research.


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  • Department of Sociology

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