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Will Job Testing Harm Minority Workers?

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  • David H. Autor
  • David Scarborough

Abstract

Because minorities typically fare poorly on standardized tests, job testing is thought to pose an equity-efficiency trade-off: testing improves selection but reduces minority hiring. We develop a conceptual framework to assess when this tradeoff is likely to apply and evaluate the evidence for such a trade-off using data from a national retail firm whose 1,363 stores switched from informal to test-based worker screening over the course of on year. We document that testing yielded more productive hires at this firm -- raising median tenure by 10-plus percent. 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 minorities and non-minorities. 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.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10763.

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Date of creation: Sep 2004
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Publication status: published as Autor, David and David Scarborough. "“Does Job Testing Harm Minority Workers? Evidence from Retail Establishments.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 123, 1 (November 2008): 219 – 277.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10763

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  5. Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2003. "The Causes and Consequences of Distinctively Black Names," NBER Working Papers 9938, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Joanne Salop & Steve Salop, 1976. "Self-selection and turnover in the labor market," Special Studies Papers, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) 80, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  7. Michael A. Stoll & Steven Raphael & Harry J. Holzer, 2004. "Black job applicants and the hiring officer's race," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 57(2), pages 267-287, January.
  8. John List, 2004. "The nature and extent of discrimination in the marketplace: Evidence from the field," Natural Field Experiments, The Field Experiments Website 00299, The Field Experiments Website.
  9. Holzer, Harry J & Raphael, Steven & Stoll, Michael A, 2006. "Perceived Criminality, Criminal Background Checks, and the Racial Hiring Practices of Employers," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(2), pages 451-80, October.
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  12. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1973. "The Theory of 'Screening', Education, and the Distribution of Income," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University 354, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
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Cited by:
  1. John J. Donohue III, 2005. "The Law and Economics of Antidiscrimination Law," NBER Working Papers 11631, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Machado, José & Portugal, Pedro & Guimarães, Juliana, 2006. "U.S. Unemployment Duration: Has Long Become Longer or Short Become Shorter?," IZA Discussion Papers 2174, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Adrian Masters, 2004. "Firm level hiring policy with culturally biased testing," Discussion Papers, University at Albany, SUNY, Department of Economics 04-14, University at Albany, SUNY, Department of Economics.
  4. Holzer, Harry J., 2007. "Collateral Costs: The Effects of Incarceration on the Employment and Earnings of Young Workers," IZA Discussion Papers 3118, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Keith Finlay, 2008. "Effect of Employer Access to Criminal History Data on the Labor Market Outcomes of Ex-Offenders and Non-Offenders," NBER Working Papers 13935, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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