Are Asian And Hispanic Applicants Less Likely To Land Certain Government Jobs Due To Bias?

by Libby Bevin on May 13, 2021

Our 2021 Diversity Report highlighted important public sector recruitment data from January 2019 to December 2020, with a focus on the discrepancies between Black female and White male candidates.  

Although the greatest disparity was found when comparing Black females to White males, there were other minority groups that deserve their own spotlight. Before we get into the specifics, it’s important that we establish the desired metrics for recruiting a diverse workforce. 

Most DEI experts recommend that an organization’s workforce closely mirror the makeup of the surrounding community. For example, if the population being served by a government agency is 10% Hispanic or Latino, then the workforce should have about the same percentage of Hispanic or Latino employees. Along the same lines, when hiring for a position, the same percentage of qualified applicants from each group should be represented throughout the hiring process. Meaning if 15% of the eligible applicants are Black, then approximately 15% of the candidates you interview should also be Black.

Now, back to the question at hand - how do Asian and Hispanic or Latino candidates fare during the government hiring process? Asian people make up 6% of the US workforce, and 6% of public sector hires. This means that Asian people are proportionately represented in the public sector. 

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Similarly, Hispanic or Latino candidates make up 18% of applicants and 18% of hires, showing a proportionate representation throughout the recruitment process. In fact, when compared to White male applicants, Hispanic male applicants are only 1% less likely to be hired. When compared to White female applicants, Hispanic males are more likely to be hired.

Simply looking at the percentage of these minority groups’ applicant rate and their subsequent hire rate makes it appear as though there are no equity issues facing either group when it comes to public sector hiring trends. However, is this true? Let’s dig further into the data.

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Despite applying for government jobs at or above their census percentage, minority candidates were hired below their census percentage in 41% of job categories. For example, Hispanic or Latino applicants were hired at a lower rate than their census percentage in 14 of the 22 categories. This means that less than 19% of the hires in these job categories were Hispanic or Latino. By contrast, White candidates were hired above the census line across all categories. In other words, White candidates made up more than 60% of the hires for each job category, despite making up a smaller percentage of the applicants (46%).

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When we look at the job categories in which the hire percentage is lower than the applicant percentage by race and ethnicity, Asian candidates were hired lower than their applicant percentage in 68% of job categories (or 15 out of 22 categories). Being hired at a lower rate than their application percentage means that, for example, if 10% of applicants were Asian and only 6% of the hires are Asian, then Asian applicants were hired at a lower rate than their applications. Asian applicants were hired either at their application percentage or above only in seven categories, including Building, Grounds Cleaning, & Maintenance, Computer & Mathematical jobs, Legal, and Healthcare Support.

Hispanic and Latino applicants were hired below their application percentage for 16 out of the 22 job categories. Similar to Asian candidates, Hispanic and Latino applicants were hired either at or above their application percentage for only six job categories, including Building, Grounds Cleaning, & Maintenance, Computer & Mathematical, and Food Preparation & Serving roles.

So, how are Asian, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian, and Native American candidates hired at the rate that they apply, if they are hired below their applicant rate in so many jobs? This is because they over-index in applications for other job categories, which balances it out and masks the issue of prejudice that appears to be afflicting both Asians and Hispanics.

The data undeniably indicates that there are certain job categories both groups are more likely to be considered for and certain job categories where they are less likely to be considered. Unconscious bias may be causing hiring managers to assume one individual will be better for a position versus another individual because of their race or ethnicity.  When a Hispanic or Latino candidate is more likely to be hired for a Building, Grounds Cleaning, & Maintenance position and less likely to be hired for a Legal job, it deserves some level of scrutiny.

Libby Bevin

Libby Bevin is a content writer and editor for NEOGOV. Libby earned a Master of Arts in English Literature and Language from Wake Forest University and a Bachelor of Arts in English and History from Stetson University. Contact Libby at