'Entrenched bias'

May 16, 1991

As House leaders put the finishing touches on what they hope will be a veto-proof Civil Rights Bill of 1991, fresh evidence of the need for such legislation was reported yesterday by a nationally recognized urban research organization in a study that found "entrenched and widespread" racial bias among U.S. employers.

The study, conducted by the Urban Institute, analyzed the experiences of 476 pairs of black and white job applicants in Washington and Chicago last year. It found that in 20 percent of the cases, blacks were denied treatment equal to whites for the same entry level jobs. Hispanics fared even worse.

Applicants were carefully matched for age, size, education and experience, differing only in skin color or ethnic appearance.

These findings suggest that despite federal laws outlawing racial discrimination in hiring and promotions, job bias remains deeply entrenched in U.S. employment practices. "The research contradicts claims that hiring practices today either favor blacks systematically or are effectively colorblind," the report said. Clearly this country has a long way to go before it can truly claim to have established the "level playing field" that would make tough civil rights measures unnecessary.

Yet President Bush has already threatened to veto the compromise civil rights bill Congress is set to take up next week, calling it a "quota bill." This is demagoguery. Admittedly, tough measures are needed to end job bias. But Congress can do its part this year -- without mandating "quotas" or sanctioning "reverse discrimination" -- by passing the Civil Rights Bill and making it stick.

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