In America, we’d like to believe that there is no such thing as class distinctions. Compared to many other countries, we pride ourselves on treating everyone equally under the law and in social and business settings. It doesn’t matter if you’re the offspring of a billionaire CEO in Manhattan or janitor in rural Mississippi, since social class shouldn’t matter. They both have the same rights, privileges and chances to succeed in America.
A new Yale University study brings to light a level of discrimination that dispels this belief. Unfortunately, we are too familiar with all sorts of discrimination in the workplace, such as ageism, sexism, racism and a host of other prejudices. The Yale study reveals that people who interview for jobs are judged based upon their social status seconds after they start to speak.
Based solely on a brief listening to an interviewee’s speech, the study shows that the interviewer can immediately spot someone’s socioeconomic level. This includes a person’s income, education and career status. Moreover, snap decisions are made about the person, which then influences hiring decisions. According to the study, interviewers pick job applicants from higher social classes compared to other candidates.
Michael Kraus, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management, claims, “Our study shows that even during the briefest interactions, a person’s speech patterns shape the way people perceive them, including assessing their competence and fitness for a job.” “While most hiring managers would deny that a job candidate’s social class matters, in reality, the socioeconomic position of an applicant or their parents is being assessed within the first seconds they speak—a circumstance that limits economic mobility and perpetuates inequality,” Kraus added.
As an example of this prejudice and preference for high-status people, listen to the voices used in tech products, like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant. It’s the same reason why, when you call a certain high-end company in New York City, you’ll hear a recording or live person with an upscale, British accent.