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Having it easy: Discrimination and specialization in the workplace

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  • Kapoor, Sacha
  • Magesan, Arvind

Abstract

Most studies analyzing worker adjustments to discrimination focus on sorting decisions, such as occupations workers pursue. We instead analyze on the job adjustments, focusing on the effects of discrimination by customers and managers. Specifically, we use observational and experimental data from large-scale restaurants to investigate the effects of the symmetry of waiter facial attributes on the trade offs they make, the extent to which the trade offs are shaped by consumer preference for symmetry, and whether the trade offs affect how they are treated by managers. We find customers have a preference for symmetry and that preferred workers consequently give them less personal attention. This allows preferred workers to serve more customers, generate more revenue for the firm, and more earnings for themselves. The large ensuing productivity and earnings differentials are facilitated largely by small differences in managerial treatment of preferred workers.

Suggested Citation

  • Kapoor, Sacha & Magesan, Arvind, 2019. "Having it easy: Discrimination and specialization in the workplace," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 166(C), pages 153-173.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:166:y:2019:i:c:p:153-173
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2019.08.019
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Beauty; Task specialization; Manager discrimination; Customer discrimination;

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing
    • L80 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - General
    • M50 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - General

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