Religious Discrimination in U.S. Workplace? Not for Jews in the South

New study shows employers prefer applicants who do not list religious affiliation, but if they have to choose, they prefer Jews to Muslims or atheists.

Workplace (illustration)
Workplace (illustration) Dreamstime

Employers in the U.S. are less likely to hire applicants who list their religious affiliation on their resumes, according to a new study described by The Washington Post. However, when it comes to Jewish applicants, not only are they not discriminated against due to their religion, but at times are even favored.

The study, entitled "Religious Affiliation and Hiring Discrimination in the American South: A Field Experiment," found Jews were more likely than any other religious group to get an early or exclusive response from an employer.

According to the study, applicants who expressed a religious identity were 26 percent less likely to receive a response from employers. "In general, Muslims, pagans, and atheists suffered the highest levels of discriminatory treatment from employers, a fictitious religious group and Catholics experienced moderate levels, evangelical Christians encountered little, and Jews received no discernible discrimination."

The reason? Researchers say the most convincing explanation is that employers in the south seek to hire people most culturally similar to them. So while atheists, Muslims and pagans faced the most discrimination, Jews faced the least. The study suggests that the culturally dominant Christian evangelicals of the south mostly identify with Jews, since both Jews and the state of Israel are prominently featured in evangelical Christian theology.

Researchers Michael Wallace, Bradley R.E. Wright and Allan Hyde of the University of Connecticut submitted 3,200 fake applications to 800 jobs within 240 kilometers (150 miles) of two major Southern cities through a popular employment Web site. The control group had no religious affiliation, while the others were atheist, Catholic, evangelical Christian, Jewish, pagan, Mulim and a fake religion called "Wallonian."