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Published March 2022 | Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

Statistical discrimination and affirmative action in the lab


We present results from laboratory experiments studying statistical discrimination and affirmative action. We induce statistical discrimination in simple labor-market interactions between firms and workers. We then introduce affirmative-action policies that vary in the size and duration of a subsidy that firms receive for hiring discriminated-against workers. These different affirmative-action policies have nearly the same effect, and practically eliminate discriminatory hiring practices. However, once lifted, few positive effects remain and discrimination reverts to its initial levels. One exception is lengthy affirmative-action policies, which exhibit somewhat longer-lived effects. Stickiness of beliefs, which we elicit, helps explain the observed outcomes.

Additional Information

© 2021 Elsevier. Received 10 June 2020, Available online 3 December 2021. We thank Richard Sander for very helpful comments as well as the Editor Gary Charness, an anonymous Advisory Editor, and two anonymous reviewers. Echenique gratefully acknowledges the support of NSF grants SES-1558757 and CNS-1518941. Yariv gratefully acknowledges the support of NSF grant SES-1629613. Prior to conducting the study, the authors obtained ethical approval from the Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects at the California Institute of Technology.

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August 22, 2023
October 23, 2023