Employers in the United States, especially for those in the East coast or in the southern states, usually have a common way of judging their applicants based on some valuable attributes. In this case, the applicant is a Hispanic Woman which seems to be enough to affect the employer’s decision.
Why? Objectively speaking, it is because of her race, her possible place of origin and its “social implications”. Such racial bias in employer decision-making can be deconstructed into a number of heuristic aspects discussed in class. As a disclaimer, this paper strives to be objective and non-racist. It contains only fair or probable assumptions on the possible thought patterns of employers, which are not absolute and may be proven false.
A Hispanic (Latina), even with a Master’s Degree, will not escape a social stigma perpetrated by a widespread social awareness indirectly attributed to President Bush’s policy against illegal immigrants. The context here is based on tough U.S. actions against border crossings from Mexico to America. American Border Guards are used to apprehending Latinos in flight, which is very much portrayed in the movie Babel (2006).
Due to the significant number of illegal cross border cases by Hispanics, our Latina applicant will be viewed as such, based on some of her physical attributes (skin color, hair, and accent). An employer who is minimally trained in psychology will surely make the mistake of considering a Latina applicant as one of those people who illegally crossed the Mexican border into the U.S. sometime in the past. Moreover, what will influence the employer’s decision not to accept her is the U.S. Government’s penalty against those who harbor illegal aliens due to a number of government-declared risks: terrorism, smuggling, human trafficking etc.
The employer’s bias against the Latina can be analyzed in terms of the availability of past memories regarding the hiring of Hispanic Americans. This employer may have experienced the assumed disadvantages of hiring Hispanics in the past. He/she may have hired someone like her in the past year, but was not very satisfied with her performance due to a number of assumed complications like, say, she goes home to Mexico everyday thereby crossing the border. This context is very much related to employers situated in New Mexico where a large bulk of the labor force actually reside in Mexico, and cross the border every day to show up for work.
The employer may wish to avoid such “border-crossing” complications in the payroll so as not to arouse suspicion to the immigration authorities about keeping an alien in the company’s workforce. The Human Resources Department may have collected a lot of business intelligence in the past years about a significant number of other employers hiring Hispanic Americans and the disadvantages they caused to their companies (an assumption only).
If the disadvantages of a Hispanic workforce become frequent, it will naturally affect the availability of not so good memories about hiring them. Assuming that Hispanic Women have this mean behaviour, the employer finds it hard to avoid regressing to this statistical mean behavior. S/he may be thinking about the odds that this Latina woman will be so different from the rest. Of course, these ideas may be far fetched, but their existence in the minds of biased employers is not impossible.
Attribution and Anchoring/Adjustment
The abovementioned idea assumptions on availability lead to the framework of the attribution heuristic. The employer, through availability and representativeness, may have created his/her built-in logic on hiring: Hispanic Americans may cause immigration problems, therefore company trouble. This self-made logic can spread to the whole Human Resources Department, especially in this case that the other manager may call the shots.
Human Resources may tend to raise its standards or benchmarks for them, thus becoming racist in its employment policy. The whole concept of benchmarking and adjusting it for specific behaviors is the meat of anchoring and adjustment. Assuming that employers have built the bias based on the above heuristics, they possibly could have preferences over other races (whites, Chinese, etc.) such that they lower the benchmark for the other applicants except Hispanics. This idea is supported by the fact that our Hispanic applicant has a Master’s Degree in Marketing and is still deemed “unfit”, even with a higher educational attainment.
It is no wonder that most reputable companies fill their Human Resources Department with people who have an objective awareness of human behavior across various origins and cultures. Recruitment committees are ideally made up of psychology graduates or behavioral science majors so they can objectively asses the fitness of applicants while limiting the determining factors of racial, socio-political, economic bias. Also, the employers’ decisions should be affected by a sense of long term integrity of the company by building the best mix of workforce from different races and origins, without biases and the mistake of overgeneralization.
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Chapman, G. B. (2000). Incorporating the Irrelevant: Anchors in Judgments of Belief and Value. Retrieved January 28, 2008, from http://heuristics.behaviouralfinance.net/anchoring/ChJo00.pdf.
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