• THE SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND PSYCHOLOGICAL ‘WAGES OF WHITENESS’: AN EMPIRICAL STUDY OF THE EFFECTS OF APPLICANT’S RACE, SEX, AND CRIMINAL RECORD STATUS ON THE APPLICANT REVIEW, EVALUATION, AND HIRING OUTCOME

      Peterson-Lewis, Sonja Marie; Harold, Crystal M.; Hiller, Matthew L.; Johnson, Amari; Nehusi, Kimani S. K.; Tibbs, Donald F.; Hill, Marc Lamont (Temple University. Libraries, 2020)
      Most research on the effects of race on people’s lived experiences focuses on how race affects the lives of people of color. Since the 1990’s, a growing body of literature has focused on “Whiteness” in society. Most “Whiteness Studies” focus on how “White” developed as a racial category and how various ethnic/national groups (e.g., Irish, Italians, Jews, Germans) came to be included under that racial label. However, nearly a century ago, in 1935, sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois referred to the public and psychological wage for Whiteness—in part, meaning the societal gravity or weight that the label “White” tends to carry. Du Bois’ oft-quoted proposition has never been empirically tested. The present study used the experimental method to empirically test Du Bois’ proposition. Using mock job applications that were identical except that (1) the applicant’s photograph had been electronically manipulated to vary race (Black or Caucasian) and sex (male or female) and (2) the application either did or did not suggest the applicant had a pending criminal charge. Each participant evaluated one mock applicant on a variety of employment and personality scales. Major findings show a main, usually negative, effect of criminal records status on ratings. Interaction effects show that participants ranked Black applicants with a pending criminal record higher than Whites with a pending record, while the reverse was true when applicants had no criminal record. Social desirability bias, and other possibilities (e.g., heightened socio-political consciousness and identification) – are discussed as possible explanation effects, including absence of prominent race or sex effects.