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Testing Theories of Discrimination: Evidence from "Weakest Link"

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  • Steven D. Levitt

Abstract

In most settings, it is difficult to measure discrimination, and even more challenging to distinguish between competing theories of discrimination (taste-based versus information-based). Using contestant voting behavior on the television game show Weakest Link, one can in principle empirically address both of these questions. On the show, contestants answer questions and vote off other players, competing for a winner-take-all prize. In early rounds, strategic incentives encourage voting for the weakest competitors. In later rounds, the incentives reverse, and the strongest competitors become the logical target. Controlling for other observable characteristics including the number of correct answers thus far, both theories of discrimination predict that in early rounds, excess votes will be made against groups targeted for discrimination. In later rounds, however, taste-based models predict continued excess votes, whereas statistical discrimination predicts fewer votes against the target group. Empirically, I find some evidence of information-based discrimination towards Hispanics (i.e., other players perceive them as having low ability) and taste-based discrimination against older players (i.e., other players treat them with animus). There is little in the data to suggest discrimination against women and Blacks.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9449.

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Date of creation: Jan 2003
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Publication status: published as Levitt, Steven D. "Testing Theories Of Discrimination: Evidence From Weakest Link," Journal of Law and Economics, 2004, v47(2,Oct), 431-452.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9449

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  1. Joseph G. Altonji & Charles R. Pierret, 2001. "Employer Learning And Statistical Discrimination," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 116(1), pages 313-350, February.
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  7. Metrick, Andrew, 1995. "A Natural Experiment in "Jeopardy!"," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 240-53, March.
  8. Lundberg, Shelly J & Startz, Richard, 1983. "Private Discrimination and Social Intervention in Competitive Labor Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 73(3), pages 340-47, June.
  9. Phelps, Edmund S, 1972. "The Statistical Theory of Racism and Sexism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 659-61, September.
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  1. Tellynomics
    by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2010-03-02 14:19:14
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