Experience, stereotypes and discrimination. Employers’ reflections on their hiring behavior
Gunn Birkeland and her colleagues have interviewed 58 employers and find that previous experience with immigrant workers matters when it comes to the willingness to hire others regarded as belonging to the same group.
This article explores the relationship between labor market discrimination, stereotypes and employers’ experiences with immigrant workers. Based on interviews with 58 employers, recruited as part of three randomized field experiments on ethnic discrimination in the Norwegian labor market, we find that experience matters in three distinct ways: first, employers with negative experiences with immigrant workers were unwilling to give job applicants from the same group an opportunity; second, employers with positive experiences with immigrant workers were more willing to hire workers from the same group, and third, employers without experiences with immigrant workers seemed to be risk averse and resort to general stereotypes of immigrants. Our findings contrast with a US study, where some employers, despite their positive experiences with black workers, still were unwilling to give job applicants from the same group an opportunity. Theoretically, we suggest that the role of employers’ experiences for labor market discrimination depends on how deeply embedded stereotypes of minorities are in the employers’ society.