How does hiring managers’ exposure to violent crime events affect employment discrimination? This study sent 368 hypothetical job applications from men to 184 employers in Oakland, California, and tested the effect of race, criminal record, and exposure to violent crime on callback rates. Data show that Black applicants had an 11.6% lower callback rate than white or Hispanic applicants did. Applicants with criminal records (of all races) had an 11.9% lower callback rate than those without one. Employers that had recent exposure to violent crimes in their neighbourhood reduced callback rates for all Black applicants by 10%, regardless of whether they had a criminal record or not. White and Hispanic applicants did not experience this effect, even those with a criminal record. These results suggest that social context – both time and place – have an important impact on employment discrimination, specifically racism against Black applicants.


Research suggests that having a criminal record affects callback rates for job applicants, particularly if the applicant is Black. However, the time and place in which employment discrimination happens is rarely examined. This research investigates how the social context of employers impacts callback rates for job applicants who are often subject to discrimination. Specifically, the author argues managers’ exposure to violent crime events amplifies negative stereotypes.

The study used an original field experiment and archival data. From August 2014 to December 2014, the author sent 368 hypothetical resumes to 184 real job postings and measured employer callbacks. Jobs were all in the food, beverage and hospitality industry in Oakland, California, and were found through Craigslist. Two applications were sent per posting. The author randomly assigned two dimensions to job applications: first, the perceived race of the job applicant was adjusted through the applicant’s name, and second, the applicant indicated whether he had a criminal record. Otherwise, resumes showed virtually identical employment-relevant characteristics, such as work experience, education, and gender (applicants were characterized as men).

The author also varied employers’ recent exposure to violent crime (such as assault and robbery) through the use of archival data of over 5000 crime events in Oakland. Data analysis counted an employer as recently exposed to a violent crime if the employer was located within 450m of a violent crime event that occurred up to 70 days before the job applicant’s resume submission. Some employers had higher counts of exposure compared to others, allowing for comparison.


The findings show that in general, employers’ callback rates for