What's in a name? Perhaps more (or less) money

March 10, 2009

Before employers have a chance to judge job applicants on their merits, they may have already judged them on the sound of their names. According to a study published in the latest issue of the Journal of Labor Economics, immigrants to Sweden earn more money after they change their foreign-sounding names.

Study authors Mahmood Arai and Peter Skogman Thoursie (both of Stockholm University) found an earnings increase of 141 percent for a sample of African, Asian and Slavic immigrants who changed their names to be ethnically neutral or a bit more Swedish-sounding. The earnings increase is mostly due to individuals within the group who reported little or no earnings before the name change, but significantly more shortly afterwards, the authors say.

"[W]e believe [the name change effect] stems largely from improving one's chances of being called to a job interview and thus increasing employment probabilities," the authors write. "Employers might sort out the applicants with foreign-sounding names due to [notions] about abilities and characteristics assumed to be associated with such names."

Arai and Skogman Thoursie used a sample of 641 immigrants who registered a name-change with the Swedish government between 1991 and 2000. The researchers analyzed earnings in the three years before and three years after a name change using a statistical method that accounts for inflation and differences in earnings related to age or place of residence. The analysis showed that the increase in earnings generally occurred the year after a name change became final.

While the authors concede that there could be confounding factors in the data, they do not believe those factors affect their conclusion.

"It is reasonable to assume that individuals who change names ... also try other strategies, such as an intensified job search, in order to improve their chances of employment and earnings," the researchers write. However, there is a time lag of one to two years between when application is made and a name change becomes final. There would be no reason, the authors argue, not to intensify the job search while the name change application is being processed. "If the [name change effect] is contaminated by ... other strategies, we should observe an effect in the year before the actual name change."

No significant increase in earnings was found in the year before name changes became final.
-end-
Mahmood Arai and Peter Skogman Thoursie, "Renouncing Personal Names: An Empirical Examination of Surname Changes and Earnings," Journal of Labor Economics 27:1

University of Chicago Press Journals

Related Immigrants Articles from Brightsurf:

Immigrants who naturalize outearn their peers
Looking at municipalities in Switzerland where citizenship applications were put to a popular vote, researchers identified immigrants who narrowly won or lost and tracked their earnings over the next several decades.

US-born residents more than 5 times likely to use prescription opioids than new immigrants
The longer immigrants live in the United States, the more likely they are to use prescription opioids -- a fact that contradicts popular views linking wealth and health, and suggests that American culture is uniquely favorable toward prescribing opioids.

Length of time in US associated with immigrants' opioid use
The more time first-generation immigrants spend in the United States the more likely it appears they will use prescription opioids.

Undocumented immigrants' transplant survival rates on par with US citizens'
Unauthorized immigrants who receive liver transplants in the United States have comparable three-year survival rates to US citizens, according to a study by researchers at UC San Francisco.

Immigrants who committed felonies less likely than nonimmigrants to commit another felony
A new study compared recidivism rates of foreign-born and native-born individuals formerly incarcerated for felonies and released from prisons in Florida.

Uncovering the roots of discrimination toward immigrants
Immigrants are often encouraged to assimilate into their new culture as a way of reducing conflict with their host societies, to appear less threatening to the culture and national identity of the host population.

Immigrants: citizens' acceptance depends on questions asked
How many immigrants per year should Switzerland be prepared to welcome?

How societal attitudes, political rhetoric affect immigrants' health
For immigrants to the United States, the current political climate, and debates over issues such as a border wall, become part of the environment that influences their health, according to a new University of Washington study.

UK prejudice against immigrants amongst lowest in Europe
A new study published in Frontiers in Sociology challenges prevailing attitudes on Brexit, the nature of prejudice, and the social impact of modernization.

Research shows biases against immigrants with non-anglicized names
Using variations of the 'trolley-dilemma' where people choose who to save or not save others in a hypothetical situation, social psychologists show that for certain groups, under certain conditions in a hypothetical scenario, having an anglicized name means you're more likely to be saved than if you kept your original Asian or Arab name.

Read More: Immigrants News and Immigrants Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.