BBI Director of Research Meera Adya with Rutgers Professors Lisa Schur and Douglas Kruse featured in New York Times for their research on employment discrimination

November 2, 2015

Fake Cover Letters Expose Discrimination Against Disabled

by Noam Scheiber - New York Times

Employers appear to discriminate against well-qualified job candidates who have a disability, researchers at Rutgers and Syracuse universities have concluded.

The researchers, who sent résumés and cover letters on behalf of fictitious candidates for thousands of accounting jobs, found that employers expressed interest in candidates who disclosed a disability about 26 percent less frequently than in candidates who did not.

"I don’t think we were astounded by the fact that there were fewer expressions of interest” for people with disabilities, said Lisa Schur, a Rutgers political scientist who was part of the research team. “But I don’t think we were expecting it to be as large."

The sole variation among the otherwise identically qualified candidates appeared in the cover letters, which revealed a disability for some but not for others.

The study, though it deals only with the accounting profession, may help explain why just 34 percent of working-age people with disabilities were employed as of 2013, versus 74 percent of those without disabilities.

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The Disability Employment Puzzle: A Field Experiment on Employer Hiring Behavior
National Bureau of Economic Research

Rutgers Study: Employers Discriminate Against Qualified Workers with Disabilities
Rutgers Today

SU study: Employers discriminate against qualified job applicants with disabilities