[IPAC-List] Ricci v DeStefano and the Relevant Labor Market

Richard Arwood richard.arwood at comcast.net
Thu Jul 2 17:37:14 EDT 2009

If I may do so, please allow me to make a clear point here that the
important issue regarding over-representation and under-representation is
very often (almost always) misinterpreted to be the "general population."
It is very sad that most politicians and many selection professionals may
err in that manner. The true standard must be the "relevant population"
(those who meet or exceed the minimal requirements (usually at entry level)
for the job. I would suspect that the "relevant labor market" in the New
Haven zone of employee recruitment is far different than the general
population, given the likelihood that firefighters must possess a level of
achieved prior education (i.e. high school or GED).

In most "consent decrees" that I have seen rendered by or through the
Department of Justice, the final goal of minority representation within the
employment group is the "relevant labor market"; thereby restoring the
employee group, in theory, to the percentage distribution that would likely
be found if no prior discrimination occurred.

Let me give a specific example from Memphis TN. The general population is
(approximately): 65% Black, 44% White, and 1% Hispanic. However, the
relevant labor market, in Memphis, for entry-level firefighters is: 38%
Black, 62% White, and <1% Hispanic. The entry-level requirement for
firefighter is: high school education (or equivalent), age 21-35. Thus, one
can see the very dramatic differences rendered by an evaluation given with
the proper perspective.

Of course, personnel selection at levels beyond the entry level pose other
complex questions, but the "relevant population" percentage is an
interesting barometer to compare the final distribution of results of
testing and selection, and the distribution of race and gender within
employee groups.


Richard Arwood, Fire Chief (retired) -Memphis, TN
Collierville, TN

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