Journal of Language and Discrimination, Vol 3, No 2 (2019)

Methods for the study of accent bias and access to elite professions

Devyani Sharma, Erez Levon, Dominic Watt, Yang Ye, Amanda Cardoso
Issued Date: 18 Dec 2019


Fair access to employment is vital for improving social mobility in Britain today. As language is not explicitly protected by the Equality Act 2010, accent can become a proxy for other forms of discrimination at key junctures for social mobility such as recruiting to elite professions. The ‘Accent bias in Britain’ project ( aims to assess prevailing attitudes to accents in Britain and to assess the extent to which accent-based prejudice affects elite professions. In this article, we focus specifically on methodological innovations of this project, rather than detailed results. We describe our approach to four challenges in the study of accent bias: how to assess whether accent preferences actively interfere with the perception of expertise in candidates’ utterances; how to more precisely identify sources of bias in individuals; new technologies for real-time rating to establish whether specific ‘shibboleths’ trigger shifts in evaluation; and how to assess the efficacy of interventions for combating implicit bias. We suggest integrating best practices from the fields of linguistics, social psychology and management studies to develop sound interdisciplinary methods for the study of language, discrimination and social mobility.

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DOI: 10.1558/jld.39979


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