Monday, October 11, 2004

Emily or Lakisha? I bet it's Emily!

In a recent AER issue (Sept 2004, subscription required), a paper by Marianne Bertrand (Chicago) and Sendhil Mullainathan (MIT) is worth discussing. They investigate job market dicrimination in the US. It's not the content that is really interesting. It's the method. In particular, it's the way they conduct their experiment. Bertrand and Mullainathan sent thousands of fictitious (!) resumes to help-wanted ads in Boston and Chicago newspapers. They use African-American- and White-sounding names to manipulate perceived race. After controlling for education, military experience, and other skills, they find that discrimination is significant. In addition, the study finds that the White-sounding names (Allison, Anne, Carrie, Brad, Brendan, Greg, etc) receive 50 percent more callbacks for interviews than the African-American names (Aisha, Ebony, Keisha, Darnell, Hakim, Jamal, etc). Interesting experiment. Would ethicists disagree? Ugh, I wonder: would the result have changed if they had targeted "athelete-wanted" ads?

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