Harvard researcher Devah Pager who proved discrimination in hiring dies at 46

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A woman holds a sign as she rests against a police barricade during a protest against police brutality at City Hall Park, August 1, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Devah Pager, the Harvard sociologist who advanced the argument that there is discrimination in hiring through a groundbreaking report, died last week of pancreatic cancer.

She was 46-years-old.

Pager wrote about the “powerful effects of race” in hiring and showed that companies were more likely to hire a white man with a felony record than a Black man with no criminal record, and that white people were more likely to get interview callbacks than black people with similar credentials, The New York Times reported.

Pager’s research showed that 34 percent of white job applicants with no criminal record received call backs compared with 14 percent of Black job applicants with no criminal record who received call backs and 17 percent of white applicants with felony convictions who received call backs. Black applicants with felony convictions were called back only 5 percent of the time, according to her research.

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Pager’s work was compiled into a book, “Marked: Race, Crime and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration,” published in 2007 and became the basis for a turning of the tide in public thought.

Race scholar William Julius Wilson, a Harvard sociologist, told the Times, “prior to Devah’s research, I would not have predicted this finding.”

Her work also became the motivation for changes in policy and even election campaigns.

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Former Democratic presidential contender and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean often cited Pager’s report, saying he wanted to work toward fighting the institutional racism it highlighted.

The findings also became the basis for a program instituted by President George W. Bush to help prisoners as they were released from prison and into an unfriendly job market, the Times reported. White House aides at the time credited Pager’s work with fueling motivation for the plan.

Pager was born in Honolulu. She is survived by her husband, Michael Shohl, and son Atticus, 5. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Los Angeles and master’s degrees from Stanford University and the University of Capetown. She earned her doctorate from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.