Researchers at the Bonn-based Institute for the Study of Labour (IZA) sent two applications responding to each of 528 advertisements for student internships, one application with a German-sounding name and the other with a Turkish-sounding one. Both applicants were German citizens with native German language skills.
The applications bearing the German names were 14 percent more likely receive a phone call response from the employer, and 24 percent more likely in the case of smaller firms.
“We interpret this finding as evidence for statistical discrimination,” he authors wrote.
However, the discrimination disappeared when the applications contained positive letters of reference about the candidate's personality.
“The study shows that employers still have some things to learn when it comes to in-house human resources,” said an IZA spokesman. “Workers with immigrant backgrounds' potential is not being fully realised.”
For the German candidates, the researchers used the names “Dennis Langer” and “Tobias Hartmann,” which were among the 30 most common first names and surnames in Germany for the years 1986 to 1988.
For the Turkish candidates, they used “Fatih Yildiz” and “Serkan Sezer” – both common for male descendants of Turkish immigrants in Germany.
Though the researchers were concerned by the results, they said the discrimination was mild compared with discrimination studies on ethnic minorities in other countries, such as Albanians in Greece, Arabs in Sweden or African Americans in the United States.