Walking the talk? What employers say versus what they do

Devah Pager*, Lincoln Quillian

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

440 Scopus citations


This article considers the relationship between employers' attitudes toward hiring ex-offenders and their actual hiring behavior. Using data from an experimental audit study of entry-level jobs matched with a telephone survey of the same employers, the authors compare employers' willingness to hire black and white ex-offenders, as represented both by their self-reports and by their decisions in actual hiring situations. Employers who indicated a greater likelihood of hiring ex-offenders in the survey were no more likely to hire an ex-offender in practice. Furthermore, although the survey results indicated no difference in the likelihood of hiring black versus white ex-offenders, audit results show large differences by race. These comparisons suggest that employer surveys - even those using an experimental design to control for social desirability bias - may be insufficient for drawing conclusions about the actual level of hiring discrimination against stigmatized groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-380
Number of pages26
JournalAmerican Sociological Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2005


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