Most Americans Say Racial Bias is a Problem in the Workplace. Can AI Help?

     Majorities of white, black, Hispanic and Asian Americans say racial and ethnic bias in hiring practices and performance evaluations is a problem. But they differ over how big of a problem is, according to a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults conducted in December 2022.

     Some 64% of Black adults described bias as unfair and wrong based on a job applicant’s race or ethnicity as a MAJOR problem, compared with 49% of Asians and 40% of Hispanics and an even smaller share of white adults (30%).

     A similar pattern appears when Americans are asked about unfair treatment in evaluating workers. Some 56% of African Americans see racial or ethnic bias as a major problem in workplace evaluations, compared with about 4 in 10 Asian and Hispanic adults and 23% of white adults.

     In recent years, companies have sought to address diversity and equity issues in the workplace, including by updating their recruiting strategies and hiring diversity officers. Some are turning to AI for help. While proponents believe AI can circumvent human biases in the hiring process, critics argue these systems simply reinforce pre-existing prejudices.

Across all racial and ethnic groups that were surveyed, pluralities of those who view bias in hiring as a problem say artificial intelligence would improve rather than worsen this issue. But African Americans stand out as the most skeptical. Some 20% who see bias and unfair treatment as a problem say AI would make things worst, compared with about 1 in 10 Hispanic, Asian and white adults.

When it comes to bias in evaluating worker’s performance, larger shares also say AI would be more helpful than harmful of addressing this issue. Overall, among those who see racial and ethnic bias in performance evaluations as a problem more say AI would improve rather than worsen the situation (46% vs 13%). Black adults who view this as an issue are again more likely than other groups to say these biases would worsen with increased use of artificial intelligence.

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