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Does your name affect your salary?

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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.”

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