Argumentative Essay on Workplace Discrimination

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Measurement of prejudice, discrimination, and attitudes toward diversity in the workplace is becoming important for two important reasons. First, business and industry are increasingly recognizing the need to address diversity and multicultural issues in workplace practices. Although affirmative action may have been a primary impetus to addressing these concerns, by and large, many organizations are recognizing the overall diversification of the workforce. As this demographic shift occurs, organizations are recognizing the need to contend with the cultural sensitivity of managers and employees, interpersonal relations with a culturally diverse workforce, and the need to increase coworker appreciation of cultural diversity. To address these issues, consulting psychologists are designing and implementing training programs to increase cross-cultural sensitivity, tolerance, and appreciation of diversity in the workplace.

Certainly, business and industry’s efforts to address multicultural training are to be encouraged; however, there is no clear focus or agreement about what constitutes good multicultural training in organizations. Furthermore, evaluation efforts of organizational multicultural training programs have been slow to emerge, and this may be significantly related to the lack of quality outcome measures. Specifically, measures that operationalize attitudes toward workplace diversity, prejudice, and multiculturalism will be important assessment tools if researchers and consulting psychologists are to understand the effect of organizational development efforts designed to increase appreciation of diversity and reduce discrimination and prejudice in the workplace.

Second, vocational psychologists and counselors are recognizing the influence of prejudice and discrimination on career development, particularly for people of color. For example, some research has suggested that perceptions of sexism and racism in the workplace may result in some African American women limiting their career choices. Similarly, Spokane and Richardson (1992) found that some people of color felt unable to pursue their career aspirations due to perceived environmental barriers within organizations. These studies suggest that perceptions of prejudice and discrimination in the workplace directly influence career decision-making processes for people of color and that assessment of these beliefs may have important implications for career counseling of racial and ethnic minority group members.

Discrimination at Workplaces

At the level of a potential worker or credit applicant dealing with a firm, racial discrimination is said to arise if an otherwise identical person is treated differently by virtue of that person’s race or gender, and race and gender by themselves have no direct effect on productivity. Discrimination is a causal effect defined by a hypothetical ceten’s pam’bus conceptual experiment-varying race but keeping all else constant. Audit studies attempt to identify racial and gender discrimination so defined for the set of firms sampled by the auditors by approximating the cetem’sparibus condition.
It was Becker’s (1957) insight to observe that finding a discriminatory effect of race or gender at a randomly selected firm does not provide an accurate measure of the discrimination that takes place in the market as a whole. At the level of the market, the causal effect of race is defined by the marginal firm or set of firms with which the marginal minority member deals. The impact of market discrimination is not determined by the most discriminatory participants in the market, or even by the average level of discrimination among firms, but rather by the level of discrimination at the firms where ethnic minorities or women actually end up buying, working and borrowing. It is at the margin that economic values are set.
This point is largely ignored in the papers in this symposium.
This confusion between individual firm and market discrimination arises in particular in the audit studies. A well-designed audit study could uncover many individual firms that discriminate, while at the same time the marginal effect of discrimination on the wages of employed workers could be zero. This helps to explain the gap between audit-based estimates of discrimination and estimates.

Another body of research examines the influence of race, racism, and discrimination in labor markets, workplaces, and organizations. Many studies have documented the dis- advantaged position of blacks and other racial and ethnic minorities in the contemporary urban labor market. The reason for this disadvantage, especially the significance of race, has been contested intensely. The importance of race in determining blacks’ life chances was declining relative to class. Similarly, economists and other social scientists have predicted that the demands of the competitive labor market would eliminate racial discrimination in the workplace.
Despite these assertions, numerous studies show that contemporary workplace dis- crimination remains a significant concern. Employers often express stereotypical views of blacks, rate black workers as having weaker hard and soft skills than white workers, and openly acknowledge their own use of discriminatory recruiting and screening procedures during the hiring process.
As a result, employers hire blacks at far lower rates than whites, even with controls for differences in levels of education. Discrimination based on gender compounds issues of racial discrimination for women of color, who report experiencing “double jeopardy”. Reports of discrimination do not appear to vary much by social class, although the frequency of such reports tends to increase with rising levels of education.
However, two substantial issues remain: the “family gap,” or the lower level of wages received by women with children and continued occupational segregation of women in lower-paid jobs. Both of these issues pose problems for the standard earnings regression framework. A respectable model of human capital must include job experience and education, but if the level of job experience and education are determined in part by social expectations of how much education women need and social patterns of who will need to take time off from work to look after children, then those variables may be embodying discrimination against women, rather than controlling for an exogenous variable. Similarly, if an earnings equation does not control for type of occupation, then it is open to the criticism that it is not comparing equivalent jobs. However, if it does control for type of occupation, and society is pushing women into particular jobs, then occupation becomes a variable that is embodying discrimination against women, rather than controlling for an exogenous factor.
Gender Discrimination

The issue of gender discrimination in the labour market has gained increased importance in recent decades. This is partly the outcome of the European Union’s (EU) continuous efforts to attract attention to the main factors which might contribute to gender discrimination, to promote policies towards decreasing gender labour market differentials and finally to introduce more efficient legislative measures against discrimination. Furthermore, one can observe similar attempts by the individual member states which support, endorse and supplement the anti-discrimination EU initiatives.
In general, there are two basic components of the issue of gender discrimination in the labour market: 1) pay discrimination and b) employment discrimination. Naturally, there are a number of other related indicators which are also helpful in establishing a more accurate picture of gender inequalities. These include unemployment rate gap, sex distribution in employment by sector, share of part-time employment, fixed term employment, average working hours and others.

In recent years there have been concerted legislative and political efforts at the EU level to reduce labour market gender discrimination. Specifically, in December 2004, the Council adopted the Directive on the principle of equal treatment between women and men in the access to, and supply of, goods and services. This was based on Article 13 of the EC Treaty and applies to goods and services available to the public (Commission of the European Communities, 2005). Apart from this, there have been other measures which have effectively the same target. The Directive concerning victims of trafficking in human beings which was adopted in April 2004 is a good example (Commission of the European Communities, 2005). The Commission plans to unify five existing directives in a single text endorsing the principle of equal treatment between men and women in matters of employment (Commission of the European Communities, 2005). Furthermore, the EU’s current Employment Guidelines (EU0308205F) state that: ‘Member States will, through an integrated approach 8 combining gender mainstreaming and specific policy actions, encourage female labour market participation and achieve a substantial reduction in gender gaps in employment rates, unemployment rates, and pay by 2010’.
There is strong evidence of a “family gap” in women’s earnings; a gap between women with children and those without. This difference goes some way to explaining the remaining overall gender gap in earnings. There are reports that the consensus estimate of the family penalty is 10-15 percent. Women with children systematically are paid a lower wage than women without children after adjusting for differences in human capital attributes. On the other hand, married men (who are much more likely to have children than unmarried men) receive a wage premium.
Reports show that among workers 24 to 45 years of age, women without children receive wage rates that are 81.3 percent of men’s pay, while women with children receive wage rates that are only 73.4 percent of men’s pay. Catalog of possible explanations for the family gap include unobserved heterogeneity (mothers are less motivated or supply less effort for market work than non-mothers); discrimination (employers prefer women without children); and institutional barriers to labor force participation by mothers.
Instead, the major explanatory factor appears to be differences in the overall degree of inequality in the national economy. For example, Reports show that American and Australian women have two of the highest percentile rankings in the male wage distributions in their respective countries; in both cases, the average woman is at the 33rd percentile of the male wage distribution. However, Australian women have an hourly wage that is 73 percent of the Australian male mean, a wage ratio second only to Sweden’s 77 percent among the 10 countries studied. In contrast, American women have an hourly wage rate that is only 65 percent of the U.S. male mean, which is among the lowest of the countries studied, with Hungary and Switzerland also at 65 percent and the United Kingdom at 61 percent.
Wage-setting institutions in each country appear to have a profound impact on the extent of male-female economic inequality. Countries like the United States and the United Kingdom with decentralized wage setting institutions and weaker trade unions tend to have the greatest general levels of inequality. Since those persons in the lower half of the income distribution are comparatively more penalized in the United States and the United Kingdom than elsewhere, gender inequality is worse relative to other countries as well.6 For Australia, Austria, Germany, Italy, Norway, and Sweden, greater inequality in the male wage distribution can account for the higher gender gap.

Racial Discrimination
There is substantial racial and gender disparity in the American economy. As we will demonstrate, discriminatory treatment within the labor market is a major cause of this inequality. The evidence is ubiquitous: careful research studies which estimate wage and employment regressions, help-wanted advertisements, audit and correspondence studies, and discrimination suits which are often reported by the news media. Yet, there appear to have been periods of substantial reductions in economic disparity and discrimination. For example, Do-nohue and Heckman (1991) provide evidence that racial discrimination declined during the interval 1965-1975. Gottschalk (1997) has produced statistical estimates that indicate that discrimination against black males dropped most sharply between 1965 and 1975, and that discrimination against women declined during the interval 1973-1994. But some unanswered questions remain. Why did the movement toward racial equality stagnate after the mid-1970s? What factors are most responsible for the remaining gender inequality? What is the role of the competitive process in elimination or reproduction of discrimination in employment?
Despite the theoretical implications of standard neoclassical competitive mod-els, we have considerable evidence that it took the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to alter the discriminatory climate in America. It did not, by any means, eliminate either form of discrimination. Indeed, the impact of the law itself may have been tem-porary, since there is some evidence that the trend toward racial inequality came to a halt in the mid-1970s (even though interracial differences in human capital were continuing to close) and the momentum toward gender equality may have begun to lose steam in the early 1990s. Moreover, we believe that the forms of discrimination have altered in response to the act. Therefore, it is not useful to argue that either racial or gender discrimination is inconsistent with the operation of competitive markets, especially when it has taken antidiscrimination laws to re-duce the impact of discrimination in the market. Instead, it is beneficial to uncover the market mechanisms which permit or encourage discriminatory practices. Since Becker’s work, orthodox microeconomics has been massaged in various ways to produce stories of how discrimination might sustain itself against pressures of the competitive market. The tacit assumption of these approaches has been to find a way in which discrimination can increase business profits, or to identify conditions where choosing not to discriminate might reduce profits. In the customer discrimination story, for example, businesses discriminate not because they themselves are bigoted but because their clients are bigoted. This story works especially well where the product in question must be delivered via face-to-face contact, but it obviously does not work well when the hands that made the product are not visible to the customer possessing the “taste for discrimination.” Moreover, as Madden (1975, p. 150) has pointed out, sex-typing of jobs can work in both directions: “While service occupations are more contact-oriented, sexual preference can work both ways: for example, women are preferred as Playboy bunnies, airline stewardesses, and lingerie salespeople, while men seem to be preferred as tire salespeople, stockbrokers, and truck drivers.”
Perhaps the best attempt to explain how discrimination might persist in a neoclassical framework is the statistical discrimination story, which, at base, is a story about imperfect information. The notion is that potential employers cannot observe everything they wish to know about job candidates, and in this environment, they have an incentive to seize group membership as a signal that allows them to improve their predictions of a prospective candidate’s ability to perform. However, this model of prejudicial beliefs does not ultimately wash well as a theory of why discrimination should be long-lasting. If average group differences are perceived but not real, then employers should learn that their beliefs are mistaken. If average group differences are real, then in a world with antidiscrimination laws, employers are likely to find methods of predicting the future performance of potential employees with sufficient accuracy that there is no need to use the addi-tional “signal” of race or gender. It seems implausible that with all the resources that corporations put into hiring decisions, the remaining differentials are due to an inability to come up with a suitable set of questions or qualifications for potential employees. Moreover, models of imperfect competition as explanations of discrimination do not solve the problem completely either. The reason for the immutability of the imperfection is rarely satisfactorily explained-and often not addressed at all-in models of this type (Darity and Williams, 1985). Struggle as it may, orthodox microeconomics keeps returning to the position that sustained observed differences in economic outcomes between groups must be due to an induced or inherent deficiency in the group that experiences the inferior outcomes. In the jargon, this is referred to as a deficiency in human capital. Sometimes this deficiency is associated with poor schooling opportunities, other times with culture (Sowell, 1981). 8 But the thrust of the argument is to absolve market processes, at least in a putative long run, of a role in producing the differential outcome; the induced or inherent deficiency occurs in pre-market or extra-market processes. Certainly years of schooling, quality of education, years of work experience, and even culture can have a role in explaining racial and gender earnings differences. However, the evidence marshaled above indicates that these factors do not come close to explaining wage differentials and employment patterns observed in the economy. Instead, discrimination has been sustained both in the United States and elsewhere, for generations at a time. Such discrimination does not always even need direct legal support nor has it been eliminated by market pressures. Instead, changes in social and legal institutions have been needed to reduce it.

More narrowly, the group-typed beliefs held by employers/selectors also can have a strong effect on the performance of the candidate at the interview stage. In an experiment performed in the early 1970s, psychologists Word, Zanna and Coo-per (1974, pp. 109-120) found that when interviewed by “naive” whites, trained black applicants “received (a) less immediacy, (b) higher rates of speech error, and (c) shorter amounts of interview time” than white applicants. They then trained white interviewers to replicate the behavior received by the black applicants in the first phase of their experiment, and found that “naive” white candidates performed poorly during interviews when they were “treated like blacks.” Such self-fulfilling prophecies are familiar in the psychology literature (Sibicky and Dov-idio, 1986). A second nontraditional theory that can lead to a permanent gap in intergroup outcomes is the noncompeting groups hypothesis advanced by the late W. Arthur Lewis (1979). Related arguments emerge from Krueger’s (1963) extension of the trade-based version of the Becker model, Swinton’s (1978) “labor force competition” model for racial differences, and Madden’s (1975) male monopoly model for gender differences, but Lewis’s presentation is the most straightforward. Lewis starts with an intergroup rivalry for the preferred positions in a hierarchical occupational structure. Say that group A is able to control access to the preferred positions by influencing the required credentials, manipulating opportunities to obtain the credentials, and serving a gatekeeping function over entry and promotion along job ladders. Group B is then rendered “noncompeting.” One theoretical difficulty with this argument that its proponents rarely address is that it requires group A to maintain group solidarity even when it may have subgroups with differing interests. In Krueger’s (1963) model, for example, white capitalists must value racial group solidarity sufficiently to accept a lower return on their capital as the price they pay for a generally higher level of income for all whites (and higher wages for white workers). In Madden’s (1975) model, male capitalists must make a similar decision on behalf of male workers.

A final alternative approach at construction of a consistent economic theory of persistent discrimination evolves from a reconsideration of the neoclassical the-ory of competition. Darity and Williams (1985) argued that replacement of neo-classical competition with either classical or Marxist approaches to competition-where competition is defined by a tendency toward equalization of rates of profit and where monopoly positions are the consequence of competition rather than the antithesis of competition-eliminates the anomalies associated with the orthodox approach. A labor market implication of this approach is that wage diversity, different pay across firms and industries for workers within the same occupation, is the norm for competitive labor markets. In these models, remuneration is a function of the characteristics of the individual and the job. The racial-gender composition of the job affects worker bargaining power and thereby wage differentials. In turn, race and gender exclusion are used to make some workers less competitive for the higher paying positions. This approach emphasizes that the major elements for the persistence of discrimination are racial or gender differences in the access to better paying jobs within and between occupations. Whatever alternative approach is preferred, the strong evidence of the persistence of discrimination in labor markets calls into question any theoretical apparatus that implies that the discrimination must inevitably diminish or disappear. (Jr. & Mason, 1998)


Posted on

March 8, 2018

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