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Does Job Testing Harm Minority Workers? Evidence from Retail Establishments

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Author Info

  • David H. Autor

    (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NBER, and IZA)

  • David Scarborough

    (Black Hills State University and Kronos, Inc.)

Abstract

Because minorities typically fare poorly on standardized tests, job testing is thought to pose an equality-efficiency trade-off: testing improves selection but reduces minority hiring. We develop a conceptual framework to assess when this trade-off is likely to apply and evaluate the evidence for such a trade-off using hiring and productivity data from a national retail firm whose 1,363 stores switched from informal to test-based worker screening over the course of one year. We document that testing yielded more productive hires at this firm-raising mean and median tenure by 10% or more. Consistent with prior research, minorities performed worse on the test. Yet, testing had no measurable impact on minority hiring, and productivity gains were uniformly large among minority and nonminority hires. These results suggest that job testing raised the precision of screening without introducing additional negative information about minority applicants, most plausibly because both the job test and the informal screen that preceded it were unbiased. (c) 2008 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology..

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 123 (2008)
Issue (Month): 1 (02)
Pages: 219-277

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:123:y:2008:i:1:p:219-277

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Web page: http://mitpress.mit.edu/journals/

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Cited by:
  1. Judith Scott-Clayton & Peter M. Crosta & Clive R. Belfield, 2012. "Improving the Targeting of Treatment: Evidence from College Remediation," NBER Working Papers 18457, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Florian Englmaier & Stephen G. Leider, 2010. "Gift Exchange in the Lab - It is not (only) how much you give ..," CESifo Working Paper Series 2944, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Pierre-Guillaume Méon & Ariane Szafarz, 2008. "Labour market discrimination as an agency cost," Working Papers CEB 08-019.RS, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  4. Shaw, Kathryn, 2009. "Insider econometrics: A roadmap with stops along the way," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(6), pages 607-617, December.
  5. Englmaier, Florian & Strasser, Sebastian & Winter, Joachim, 2014. "Worker characteristics and wage differentials: Evidence from a gift-exchange experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 185-203.
  6. Méon, Pierre-Guillaume & Szafarz, Ariane, 2011. "The modern corporation as a safe haven for taste-based discrimination: An agency model of hiring decisions," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 487-497, August.
  7. Abigail Wozniak, 2012. "Discrimination and the Effects of Drug Testing on Black Employment," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 13-195, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
  8. Casey Ichniowski & Kathryn L. Shaw, 2009. "Insider Econometrics: Empirical Studies of How Management Matters," NBER Working Papers 15618, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Florian Englmaier & Stephen G. Leider, 2012. "Managerial Payoff and Gift Exchange in the Field," CESifo Working Paper Series 3707, CESifo Group Munich.
  10. Masters, Adrian, 2009. "Matching with interviews," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 938-954, April.
  11. Schwager, Robert, 2012. "Grade inflation, social background, and labour market matching," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 56-66.
  12. Elhanan Helpman & Oleg Itskhoki & Stephen Redding, 2008. "Wages, Unemployment and Inequality with Heterogeneous Firms and Workers," NBER Working Papers 14122, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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