A new study suggests that openly gay men face substantial job discrimination, at least in certain parts of the United States.

The study, which is the largest of its kind to look at job discrimination against gay men, found that employers in the South and Midwest were much less likely to offer an interview if an applicant’s resume indicates that he is openly gay.

Overall, the study found that gay applicants were 40 percent less likely to be granted an interview than their heterosexual counterparts.

“The results indicate that gay men encounter significant barriers in the hiring process because, at the initial point of contact, employers more readily disqualify openly gay applicants than equally qualified heterosexual applicants,” said the study’s author, András Tilcsik of Harvard University.

For the study, Tilcsik sent two fictitious but realistic resumes to more than 1,700 entry-level, white collar job openings – positions such as managers, business and financial analysts, sales representatives, customer service representatives, and administrative assistants.

The two resumes were very similar in terms of the applicant’s qualifications, but one resume for each opening mentioned that the applicant had been part of a gay organisation in college.

The second resume Tilcsik sent listed experience in the “Progressive and Socialist Alliance” in place of the gay organisation. Since employers are likely to associate both groups with left-leaning political views, Tilcsik could separate any “gay penalty” from the effects of political discrimination.

The results showed that applicants without the gay signal had an 11.5 percent chance of being called for an interview. However, gay applicants had only a 7.2 percent chance. That difference amounts to a 40 percent higher chance of the heterosexual applicant getting a call.

The call-back gap varied widely according to the location of the job with the most discrimination occurring in the states of Texas, Florida, and Ohio. States such as California, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and New York had only small and statistically insignificant call-back gaps.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no discrimination in those states, just that the call-back gaps were small in the case of the jobs to which I sent applications,” Tilcsik explained.

The research also found that employers seeking stereotypically heterosexual male traits were more likely to discriminate gay men. Gay applicants had lower callback rates when the employer described the ideal candidate for the job as “assertive,” “aggressive,” or “decisive.

“It seems, therefore, that the discrimination documented in this study is partly rooted in specific stereotypes and cannot be completely reduced to a general antipathy against gay employees,” Tilcsik said.

The research was published this week in the American Journal of Sociology.

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