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Is Promoting an African American Unfair? The Triple Interaction of Participant Ethnicity, Target Ethnicity, and Ethnic Identity


  • 1An earlier version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management, August 2001, in Washington, DC. Alison Konrad gratefully acknowledges the support of the Boettner Research Fellowship from Temple University's Fox School of Business and Management.


This research examined the effect of manipulating a hypothetical candidate's ethnicity on the perceived fairness of promotions. In an experimental study, 142 undergraduates were assigned randomly to rate the fairness of promotions going to either a White or an African American candidate. Findings indicated that a significant three-way interaction between participant's ethnicity, candidate's ethnicity, and scores on Phinney's (1992) multigroup ethnic identification index associated with perceptions of promotion decisions. Both White and African American participants with a strong ethnic identity gave higher fairness ratings when a member of their own ethnic group was promoted. These results demonstrate the importance of assessing the extent to which people identify with their ethnic group in addition to assessing their demographic categories.