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June 18, 2014 2:11 pm

Survey Says Resumes Listing Jewish Affiliation Get More Callbacks

avatar by Joshua Levitt

A new study based on 3,200 fake resumes found that candidates mentioning involvement in Jewish organizations fared better than those with other religious affiliations. Photo: Dr. Mark Wallace / Social Currents.

A new study based on 3,200 fake resumes found that candidates mentioning involvement in Jewish organizations fared better than those with other religious affiliations. Photo: Dr. Mark Wallace / Social Currents.

Listing involvement with religious organizations on a resume decreases the liklihood of a call back for all religions, even one that was made up, with the exception of listing Jewish organizations, which actually led to a higher call-back rate, according to a new study co-authored by University of Connecticut Sociology Professor Michael Wallace, as reported on Tuesday by Vox.

The results of the study, based on 3,200 fake resumes sent to companies in the U.S. South, were published in the June issue of sociology journal Social Currents.

Vox said: “Each employer was sent 4 different applications containing ‘varying biographical information but comparable job qualifications.’ The only thing that set the resumes apart from each other was the mention of involvement with a particular religious group — for example, ‘Muslim Student Group’ or ‘Campus Jewish Association.’ The religious groups randomly assigned by researchers to the fake resumes were atheist, Catholic, evangelical Christian, Jewish, pagan, Muslim, and a fictitious religion called ‘Wallonian.’ There was also a control group that contained no reference at all to religious involvement.”

According to the data published by the academics, the control group fared better than all the others, with 18.2 percent of its resumes generating a phone or email response, compared to an average of 14.0 percent, meaning that job seekers ought not to include any religious-affiliated groups to get the best response.

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Resumes featuring a Muslim group fared the worst, with only 10.7 percent getting a response, followed by resumes with names of atheist groups, at 12.0 percent, then Catholic and made-up religion Wallonian, tying at 13.0 percent, followed closely by Pagan, at 13.3 percent.

Including the control group, the average was 14.0 percent, with resumes above that being Evangelical Chrisitans, with 15.8 percent, and then with Jewish groups, at 16.5 percent, the highest of all the religious mentions, but still below the control group that did not disclose any religious affiliations.

In the paper, Wallace, with co-authors Bradley R. E. Wright and Allen Hyde, wrote: “Only Jews escaped totally unscathed as we found no statistically significant evidence of hiring discrimination against this group across all eight indicators in the study. Not only did Jewish applicants not face discrimination but they also actually may have received preferential treatment by some employers—that is, they were more likely to receive an early, exclusive, or solo response from employers,compared with all other religious groups combined. This suggests there is a subset of employers who show a preference for Jewish applicants.”

As for how to explain the differences, the authors find some basis in existing and interesting theories, but also left many questions open. They offered further hypotheses about how Jews fared so well; perhaps, because of good reputation, the importance of Israel in the dominant Evangelical Protestant communities or the long history of Jews in the community. But, overall, the study showed that, even in the South, which is a place where religious values are held in high esteem, the secular work environment usually prefers secular resumes:

Religious stratification theory accurately predicts that Jews, who are highly educated and have higher incomes, would experience the least discrimination, and pagans, who rate low on each dimension, would experience relatively high rates of discrimination. But the theory does poorly in other respects. By this theory, atheists should fare rather well, but they are highly discriminated against. Muslims, who are near the middle socioeconomically, encounter extremely high rates of discrimination and evangelicals, who rank low on the socioeconomic scale, face relatively little discrimination.

Cultural distaste theory contends that groups that are most different from the culturally dominant evangelicals—atheists, Muslims, Wallonians, and pagans—should suffer the highest rates of discrimination and for the most part they do. It also correctly predicts that the culturally dominant group, evangelical Protestants, should encounter very little discrimination. Also, Catholics, who are most religiously similar to Protestants, are still not embraced in Southern evangelical culture and accordingly are targets of rather strong discrimination— in some cases at similar levels toWallonians or pagans.

The one possible exception, the lack of discrimination against Jews, is not so exceptional upon closer inspection. Jews, and especially the Jewish state of Israel, feature prominently in evangelical Christian theology; in fact, evangelicals express stronger support for Israel than any other ethnic or religious group except Jews themselves (Schrag 2005). Also, as Schmier (1989) points out, despite constituting barely 1 percent of the Southern population, Jews have had a disproportionate influence on Southern culture. While Jews are culturally different from evangelicals in many respects,Southern Jews have deep historical roots in the South and have more successfully assimilated into mainstream culture than Jews in other regions. Southern Jews did not form residential enclaves to the same extent as Northern Jews, and they attained positions of influence and leadership in civic and philanthropic associations. As Schmier (1989:1290) notes, ‘few phases of the Southern experience and few places in the South escaped their influence.’ In short, Jews thrived in the South, not by brandishing their religious differences but by embracing key aspects of Southern evangelicalculture.

Thus, a more nuanced version of cultural distaste theory can explain the apparent lack of hiring discrimination against Jews and the tendency for some employers to show preferential treatment toward them compared with other religious treatments. Cultural distaste theory may also encompass the finding from secularization theory that overt religious expression is penalized in certain public settings. While religion is central to Southern life and Southerners more openly display their religious beliefs than citizens in other parts of the country, they also embrace the secular notion that there is a proper time and place for religious expression. Thus, even in the Deep South, most employers draw the line against overt expressions of religious belief in the workplace.

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