What Leads to Hiring Discrimination?

You’re probably aware that discrimination can occur during selection. However, in recent years, various predictions have been made regarding who is most likely to be discriminated against, and why. The multiple minority status hypothesis (MMS) posits that someone who is a member of more than one minority group (e.g., an Arab woman in the United States) is more likely to be discriminated against than someone who is only part of one minority group (e.g., an Arab man in the U.S.). Another perspective is the ethnic prominence hypothesis (EP), which suggests that numerical minority status (in other words, women are not counted as a minority) leads to stereotyping. In a series of recent studies in the Netherlands, Eva Derous and her colleagues studied discrimination against Arabs and tested the MMS and EP perspectives.


In these studies, Arabs were discriminated against in selection practices, supporting the EP hypothesis. Arabs were much more likely to be rejected based on resumes that differed only in the name of the applicants, and not in experience or other qualifications. However, raters who were motivated to control their prejudice did not show discrimination based on the ethnicity of the applicant. Arabs were discriminated against more when raters’ prejudice was high, as would be expected. In addition, when the job was stereotypically held by white men (i.e., HR manager), Arab women were discriminated against more than Arab men, supporting the MMS hypothesis.


The authors found support for the ES hypothesis for lower-status jobs and support for the MMS hypothesis for higher-status jobs. In other words, discrimination may depend on how the applicant, job, and recruiter characteristics interact.


Derous, D., Ryan, A. M., & Nguyen, H.-H. D. (2012). Multiple categorization in resume screening: Examining effects on hiring discrimination against Arab applicants in field and lab settings. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33, 544-570. doi: 10.1002/job.769