In what many may see as an odd twist, people’s own bigoted misconceptions actually mean that workplace drug testing benefits African-American men.
This is because even though drug use is about equal between white and black people, the common perception is that black people abuse drugs much more than their white counterparts, freelance writer Max Taves says. Workplace drug testing shows this misconception to be false, enabling black men to get higher paying jobs more frequently.
Taves wrote an article about the study, which was done by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
“It’s a counterintuitive study. The economist who wrote this kind of knew going into it and wanted to test it,” Taves told the Huffington Post. “What it means is that companies’ information, their perception of African-Americans employees relative to white employees and drug use is wrong.”
Fourteen states, mostly in the South and Midwest, adopted laws back in the 1980s to enforce testing by offering legal and financial incentives to companies that test current and prospective employees. Seven states, mostly in the Northeast and West, developed laws to explicitly limit testing while 29 states made little or no significant changes.
Notre Dame University economist Abigail Wozniak studied the impact of those laws on African-American employment between 1980 and 2010 and found that low-skilled black men were significantly impacted by the pro-drug test laws. Their wages in states that tested rose 12% more than black employees in states opposed to testing and 4% more than in the “neutral” states.
The overall employment rate of black men in pro-testing states didn’t change, Wozniak said, but black men were able to get better jobs because of it. The firms most likely to test employees are bigger, pay better and offer more benefits than firms that don’t test.
“These pro-testing firms hired more blacks and paid more,” said Wozniak.
Once the companies realized their perception about hiring black employees was incorrect — proven to them by drug testing — they felt more confident hiring black employees.