Most people keep and continue to use the first name which they were given at birth. While a name becomes part of our personal identity, it has no relation to one’s character, intelligence or abilities. Despite the fact that an individual’s name really is just a name, research indicates that when it comes to employment opportunities, a person’s first name appears to have a significant influence.

In a research paper entitled, Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination, researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research conducted an experiment to examine what impact, if any, of an individual’s first name has when it comes to employment opportunities.

For the experiment, researchers responded to some 1,300 employment ads in two major metropolitan areas by sending out roughly 5,000 fake resumes. Researchers tailored resumes to meet the specific qualifications and requirements of each job so that fictionary candidates were equally qualified. The one variable is that researchers used white-sounding names for some resumes and African-American sounding names for others.

Employment discrimination laws explicitly ban discriminatory practices related to a job candidate’s or employee’s race. Sadly, despite these laws, the results of the NBER study indicate that job candidates with African-American sounding names are 50 percent less likely to receive a call-back about a job opportunity.

To further test the impact of white vs. African-American names for employment opportunities, researchers also included highly-qualified fictional candidates. Those highly-qualified candidates with white-sounding names improved their call-back rates by 30 percent. However, the call-back rates for highly-qualified candidates with African-American sounding names increased by only nine percent.

The results of this experiment confirm that many employers engage in acts of racial discrimination when screening job candidates. Residents in the Los Angeles area who have been the target of discriminatory practices and acts based upon one’s race, religion, sex or disability would be wise to discuss their case with an attorney who handles employment law matters.