Veronica Agard has a first name that doesn’t send any signal about whether she is black, brown, white or yellow. Veronica skillfully presents the story of Yolanda Spivey, an African-American woman who performed an experiment by applying for the same jobs with two different names and profiles (ethnic identification) on Monster.com:
- Yolanda Spivey (her real name), with an African-American profile
- Bianca White (a fabricated “white” name) with a Caucasian (white) profile
You can probably guess which “applicant” got the most interviews—which says something about the job market in the U.S. and naming strategies for African-American parents.
After reading the article, I strongly suggest you peruse some of the readers’ comments below the article. Several refer to a chapter in Freakonomics which concluded that names which create an impression that the applicant is from a “low-rent” neighborhood and has low socio-economic and educational status seems to be a more accurate cause of the problem than “racism.”
Some of the comments also mention successful naming strategies African-American parents with high socio-economic status use to increase the odds their children will also be perceived as having high socio-economic status. So the strategy of naming for success may be even more important for ethnic minorities than for Caucasians.
Although the Hispanic population in the U.S. is rising rapidly, the popularity of Spanish names like Manuel, Javier, Alejandro, and Julio is declining rapidly. Apparently an increasing percentage of people whose families came from Spanish- speaking countries are choosing “Anglo” names for their children.
Naming for success is a time-tested strategy for upward mobility that has been used by countless ethnic groups in the U.S. This strategy was used by Veronica Agard’s mother and is used by upwardly mobile African-American families throughout the U.S. Let’s face it: names are often used as an indicator of social class, whether we like it or not.