Hard-To-Pronounce Names and Labor Market Effects


dr. Eugen Schochenmaier

Mondonomo, Chief Scientist

July 11, 2022, 2:24 p.m.


The new work presented by Qi Ge and Stephen Wu tests for the existence of labor market discrimination based on a previously unstudied characteristic: name fluency. Using data on over 1,500 economics job market candidates from roughly 100 PhD programs during the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 job market cycles, they find that having a name that takes longer to pronounce is associated with

1) a significantly lower likelihood of being placed into an academic job or obtaining a tenure track position; and

2) an initial placement at an institution with lower research productivity, as measured by the research rankings in the Research Papers in Economics (RePEc) database.

For example, most non-Chinese speakers would consider Chen to be more familiar and easier to pronounce than Xiang; people without a Polish background will generally have much more trouble trying to pronounce the surname Przybylko than they will with Nowak.

The researchers from New-York obtain similar results using two alternative ways of measuring pronunciation difficulty, a computer-generated algorithm based on commonality of letter and phoneme combinations and a subjective measure based on individual ratings, and they hold after the inclusion of many control variables including fixed effects for PhD institution and home country.