Black students who graduate from elite universities are about as likely to get competitive jobs as white students who graduate from less selective universities like the University of California, Riverside and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, according to research published by University of Michigan sociology professor S. Michael Gaddis.
“What this tell us is that there remains a lot of discrimination in employment markets,” Omar Wasow, assistant professor of politics at the University, said. “We can certainly say there’s a causal effect of exposing employers to cues about college selectivity and race that effects the likelihood of getting a response.”
Gaddis created resumes listed with people who had what the study referred to as distinctly black names and distinctly white names, and who went to either elite or less selective universities. He then submitted these resumes for entry-level positions in three chosen areas and compared response rates.Gaddis concluded that a bachelor’s degree from an elite institution is not a complete antidote to racial discrimination in the labor market.
Gaddis was not available for comment.
“The results of the study don’t surprise me,” Shawon Jackson ’15, former Undergraduate Student Government president, said, adding thathe thinks his background as a low-income student and a black American puts him in a good position to talk about diversity.
As a senior applying to consulting jobs, fellowships and for positions working abroad, Jackson said he never felt uncomfortable talking to employers about his background.
“I never thought my race hindered me from getting a first-round interview,” Jackson said, “although I’m not sure if I would have gotten an interview if I wasn’t USG president.”
In conversations with his peers, Jackson said he has heard many students talk about how being at an Ivy League university might overshadow other negative stereotypes people have about black students. Just looking at where people end up doesn’t tell the full story, though, Jackson said, noting that lookingat where people apply is important in depicting the role of one's background in the job application process accurately.
Yesenia Arroyo ’15 said she did not find her job through the University but that she did not personally feel race had been a disadvantage to her in the job application process.
"My background as a low income minority student gives me a story that is interesting and special," she said. "I don’t know if my experiences are different from other people’s, but I have never felt held back because of the way I look or being a woman. I do think there’s power to walking in to a room and being the underdog and still being able to perform and I think people respect that."
Career Services could be doing more to assist students in general, Arroyo said, adding she sometimes felt as if she was on her own in forging her career path.
"I think the biggest thing that makes a difference is not a race thing: It’s a money thing," Arroyo said. "I’m low income, but I had connections with people in high school that helped."
The University's Office of Career Services does not publish data about the demographic breakdown of students inreports about outgoing seniors’ post-graduation plans.However, the University is a part of the larger conversation on the subject of the role of race in the job market, Executive Director of the Office of Career Services Pulin Sanghvi said, addingthat Career Services is in the process of creating an internal committee on diversity and inclusion.
The committee, of which Sanghvi will be a member, will focus on making diversity a lens through which Career Services sees its work, he said.
“We’re not going to do a long planning process before recommending that we start launching initiatives,” Sanghvi said. “[I’m] looking for it to be a permanent committee, not just a committee that issues recommendations and disbands.”
When asked about the lack of published reports about the breakdown along racial lines of alumni entering employment and graduate schools after leaving the University, Sanghvi said he looks forward to seeing how the new committee will address this issue.
“I am very interested in understanding everything I can about issues related to diversity and inclusion in the workplace,” he said.
Though Sanghvi said he cannot yet provide a projected timeline for the new committee’s work, he said he is interested in digging deeper into what can be done proactively to address diversity issues.
“We want student input into everything that we do,” Evangeline Kubu, director of external relations and operations for the Office of Career Services, said. “We’re always asking for feedback, especially with these new initiatives."
Given what is taking place nationally, the University should assume there is still significant proactive work to be done, Sanghvi said.
Career Services could do more to promote programs targeted for minorities that a lot of people do not know about, Jackson said.
“If students can actually see that, ‘Wow! Someone that looks like me and has a similar background made it big,’ that would help underrepresented students feel more empowered,” Jackson said.