New Zealand Journal Of Psychology Vol.
No.1, June 2003
Test Male Female Gender Unknown Male Female Gender Unknown
49 6 27 3Verbal reasoning test 109 19.28 5.35 55 22.2 5.09 .55* .17 .22 - .89Numerical business analysis test 19 8.21 3.34 10 14.90 4.43 1.79* .46 .85 - 2.72General numerical reasoning test 29 14.72 5.76 17 14.76 5.55 .01 .31 - .61 - .62the use of cognitive tests in personnel selection is nowgreater in New Zealand than in many other countries,according to a recent cross-national survey of staff selectionpractices in 18 countries. This survey found that theprevalence of cognitive ability test use in New Zealand wasgreater than all but three other countries (Ryan, McFarland,Baron & Page, 1999).The value of cognitive ability testing for employee selectiondoes not, however, come without costs and somecontroversy. In the United States, for example, the use ofcognitive ability testing has been found to adversely impactAfrican American and Hispanic applicants as a result ofsubstantial differences in mean test scores (Sackett,Schmitt, Ellingson and Kabin, 2001). Large-scale meta-analyses have confirmed that African Americans scoreapproximately one standard deviation lower than Whites onmeasures of quantitative ability, verbal ability, andcomprehension and that similar, and slightly smallerdifferences (.7- .8 standard deviations) have been foundbetween Hispanic and White applicants (see, for example,Roth, Bevier, Boko, Switzer, & Tyler, 2001). Consequently,where staff selection is based largely on cognitive ability testscores, members of affected minority groups, such asAfrican Americans and Hispanics in the USA, receive feweremployment opportunities than Whites and some otherminority groups (Scientific Affairs Committee, 1994). Thissituation has led to a dilemma in the USA, in which relyingon cognitive ability tests has been seen by manyorganisations and researchers as sensible from theperspective of maximizing predictive validity, but doing sothreatens the achievement of social objectives, such asovercoming past social inequities, pluralism, and creating anethnically diverse workforce (Sackett & Wilk, 1994; Sackettet al., 2001).While much research has been conducted in the UnitedStates on ethnic differences on cognitive tests used inemployment selection, we know of no prior publishedresearch on the topic in New Zealand. Such research isimportant, given both the prevalence of cognitive testing foremployment in New Zealand, and government policyprograms aimed to decrease social and economic disparitybetween Maori and non-Maori. If differences in thedistributions of occupational cognitive ability test scoresbetween Maori and Europeans are near-zero (i.e., so smallas to have no practical significance), employers can usesuch tests with the confidence that doing so will result in noadverse impact on achieving an ethnically diverseworkforce. If, on the other hand, substantial differences incognitive test scores are found, as they have beenoverseas, then organizations wishing to employ anethnically diverse workforce must carefully consider whetherand how to use such tests. The purpose of the presentstudy was to investigate whether ethnic group differencesexist among a sample of New Zealand job applicants, usinghistorical recruitment data from an organisation that hadadministered cognitive tests as part of their staff selectionprocedure.
Archival test score data were available from a large NewZealand government organisation on applicants who hadcompleted one or more of three cognitive ability tests whileapplying for professional level positions, such as analysts,senior analysts, or finance positions.Participants in this research were applicants for analyst,senior analyst, and finance positions. The data used werehistorical, and were collected as part of the recruitmentprocess. The testing for the candidates in this analysisoccurred over the period 1997-2001, including test scoresfor 239 candidates. These included 76 Maori male testscores, 74 Maori female test scores, 40 European male testscores, 39 European female test scores, and 10 scores (7Maori and 3 European) of unknown gender. The breakdownfor each test is presented in Table 1.For the purposes of this research, job candidates wereclassified as Maori if they had identified themselves whenapplying as either Maori or Maori and any other origin,including European. Only candidates who indicated solelyNew Zealand European heritage were classified as