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Is It How You Look or Speak That Matters? - An Experimental Study Exploring the Mechanisms of Ethnic Discrimination

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Author Info

  • Rödin, Magnus

    ()
    (Dept. of Economics, Stockholm University)

  • Özcan, Gülay

    ()
    (Dept. of Economics, Stockholm University)

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    Abstract

    Using a unique laboratory experiment where subjects are asked to guess the test performance of candidates presented by facial portraits and voice messages, this paper explores the following questions: Are beliefs about performance affected by if a candidate is perceived to have looks that are non-stereotypical for the dominant population and do these beliefs change if the candidate has native-like versus accented speech? The experiment is conducted in Sweden and the results show that candidates not perceived as stereotypically Swedish are considered to be worse performers. These beliefs are found in within-gender but not in cross-gender evaluations and are not eliminated when additional performance-related information about the candidates is provided. When candidates are presented by both looks and speech, differential evaluations based on looks disappear. Instead, we find strong negative beliefs about performance for candidates that speak Swedish with a foreign accent implying that ethnic stereotypes associated with speech override stereotypes associated with appearance. The negative beliefs associated with foreign-accented speech are not supported by corresponding mean differences in the candidates’ actual test performance.

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    File URL: http://www2.ne.su.se/paper/wp11_12.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Stockholm University, Department of Economics in its series Research Papers in Economics with number 2011:12.

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    Length: 51 pages
    Date of creation: 01 Apr 2011
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:hhs:sunrpe:2011_0012

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    Postal: Department of Economics, Stockholm, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
    Phone: +46 8 16 20 00
    Fax: +46 8 16 14 25
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    Web page: http://www.ne.su.se/
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    Related research

    Keywords: Experiment; Appearance; Speech; Beliefs; Performance; Stereotypes;

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    1. Chris Papageorgiou & Nick Feltovich, . "An Experimental Study of Statistical Discrimination by Employers," Departmental Working Papers 2001-07, Department of Economics, Louisiana State University.
    2. Arai, Mahmood & Bursell, Moa & Nekby, Lena, 2008. "Between Meritocracy and Ethnic Discrimination: The Gender Difference," IZA Discussion Papers 3467, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Chiswick, Barry R & Miller, Paul W, 1995. "The Endogeneity between Language and Earnings: International Analyses," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(2), pages 246-88, April.
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    8. Castillo, Marco & Petrie, Ragan, 2010. "Discrimination in the lab: Does information trump appearance?," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 50-59, January.
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    10. Rashid, Saman, 2004. "Immigrant Earnings, Assimilation and Heterogeneity," UmeÃ¥ Economic Studies 622, Umeå University, Department of Economics.
    11. Daniel S. Hamermesh & Jeff E. Biddle, 1993. "Beauty and the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 4518, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Esfandiar Maasoumi & Almas Heshmati, 2000. "Stochastic dominance amongst swedish income distributions," Econometric Reviews, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(3), pages 287-320.
    13. Davis, Douglas D., 1987. "Maximal quality selection and discrimination in employment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 97-112, March.
    14. Mats Hammarstedt & Ghazi Shukur, 2006. "Immigrants' Relative Earnings in Sweden - A Cohort Analysis," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 20(2), pages 285-323, 06.
    15. John A. List, 2004. "The Nature and Extent of Discrimination in the Marketplace: Evidence from the Field," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(1), pages 49-89, February.
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