Discover more from Better Conflict Bulletin
Political Discrimination in Hiring Risks Creating an Economic Underclass - BCB #16
“We're a values-based company.”
Though different in Red and Blue forms, political discrimination in the workplace is a reality in a polarized America. This has potential long term consequences, if people of particular political affiliations are locked out of high-status jobs.
Red perception that Blue HR departments have run amok has led to conservatives-only job boards. Evidence suggests that this perception of bias is justified, and that it cuts both ways. In one 2019 survey,
51% of hiring managers who leaned left and another 57% who leaned right said they would not hire a qualified candidate if they expressed a strong online opinion about a controversial political issue.
Controlled experiments have provided both indirect and direct evidence that political discrimination impacts hiring decisions. This is generally legal for private businesses, because politics is not a protected class under the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — though there are laws in some states prohibiting employer retaliation for certain activities, like voting.
As polarization increases, the end state seems to be companies — or even entire industries — dominated by one type of politics. Certain sectors, such as academia, journalism, and entertainment are already Blue mono-cultures; Red is more concentrated in industries such as farming, trucking, construction, and oil.
Regardless of legality, do we really want workplaces that tend toward all Red or all Blue? Some will answer yes, on the basis that Reds are bigots or Blues are zealots. These are, of course, stereotypes. Like all stereotypes, they contain some truth, but we should instead aim to evaluate each person on their own merits.
As with other kinds of diversity, it is stressful and tiring to work somewhere where you have to hide your true beliefs — not to mention bad for your career. But in the U.S., there is a deeper structural reason to avoid political discrimination in hiring: Red political orientation correlates with lower socio-economic status, such as education level and household income.
If polarized hiring persists, then we run the risk of entrenching a politically-aligned Red underclass. This is not only immoral, but unstable.
More on That
Does Politics Influence Hiring? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment
By mailing out resumes with and without political affiliation signals, these researchers found that companies in predominantly Blue counties were 2.4% more likely to get back to Blue candidates, while companies in Red counties were 5.6% more likely to respond to Red candidates.
Field experiments show partisan favoritism in a variety of economic contexts, from the salary new employees were willing to accept to the products consumers were willing to buy.
Civil employees are specifically protected against political retaliation; private companies must comply with state laws prohibiting such discrimination. However, these laws “may not apply to political beliefs or views, but instead, a limited range of political activities like making a political campaign contribution or running for office.”
Thanks for reading Better Conflict Bulletin! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support our work.
New and Interesting
Previous studies have cemented the trope that Red is more cognitively and ideologically rigid. This careful review argues that the effect is real, but cautions that “associations between economic conservatism and rigidity indicators were inconsistent, small, and not statistically significant outside of the United States.”
Individuals from a disadvantaged group who had greater hope for “harmony with the outgroup” also had less motivation for action to address inequalities. This is a direct example of the perennial tension between peace and justice.
Two judges, one appointed by Obama and one by Trump, offer suggestions for decreasing polarization. Many of these are anodyne (“reject venomous online voices”) but there is also the helpful reminder that that 99% of circuit-court decisions are unanimous and therefore nonpolitical.
Quote of the Week
Like other forms of discrimination, political discrimination in the workplace furthers inequality and likely results in similar negative outcomes: health problems, violence, turnover, and reduced productivity