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Study: Drug Testing Boosts African-American Employment

A paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research says that because African-Americans are perceived to use more drugs, drug testing enables them to objectively prove to employers that they don’t

It’s no secret that America’s war on drugs hasn’t gone well, at least in economic and racial terms. Labor economist Abigail Wozniak investigated the relationship between race, drug testing, and employment, publishing a paper in the National Bureau of Economic Research with her findings. Surprisingly, she found that the rise of drug testing actually boosts African-American employment by a significant percentage: In states with a high prevalence of drug testing, African-American employment increased between 7% and 30%, while wages increased between 1.4 and 13%.

“A common assumption is that the rise of drug testing must have had negative consequences for black employment,” she writes. “However, the rise of employer drug testing may have benefited African-Americans by enabling non-using blacks to prove their status to employers.”

In case you missed it: She’s saying that, because African-Americans are perceived to use more drugs, drug testing enables them to objectively prove to employers that they don’t, which therefore results in increased employment. Here’s Quartz:

Without the testing, employers went by their gut biases. But when testing became common and showed that black applicants were not actually using drugs, hiring rates for black applicants went up. Wozniak concludes that this is evidence of discrimination against black workers before testing, driven by some combination of racialized belief and ignorance.

Ugh.

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