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Second-order statistical discrimination

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  • Klumpp, Tilman
  • Su, Xuejuan

Abstract

The low representation of female workers in elite jobs is sometimes attributed to a tail effect: If the human capital distribution exhibits less variation among females than among males, then even with comparable average human capital there will be fewer females in the right tail than males. This paper offers an explanation for why the human capital distribution might have this property. We show that the belief that the female human capital distribution has a lower variance than the male distribution can be self-fulfilling, in that it provides individuals with incentives to invest in human capital such that the resulting distribution exhibits exactly this characteristic. If this happens, fewer females are employed in high-end jobs (a “glass ceiling” effect). The average productivity of female workers may at the same time be higher than that of male workers.

Suggested Citation

  • Klumpp, Tilman & Su, Xuejuan, 2013. "Second-order statistical discrimination," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 108-116.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:97:y:2013:i:c:p:108-116
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2012.09.004
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    2. Baert, Stijn, 2015. "Hiring a Homosexual, Taking a Risk? A Lab Experiment on Employment Discrimination and Risk Aversion," IZA Discussion Papers 9536, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Sansone, Dario, 2019. "Pink work: Same-sex marriage, employment and discrimination," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 180(C).
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    5. Carlsson, Magnus & Fumarco, Luca & Rooth, Dan-Olof, 2013. "Artifactual Evidence of Discrimination in Correspondence Studies? A Replication of the Neumark Method," IZA Discussion Papers 7619, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Statistical discrimination; Aptitude distribution; Gender differences; “Glass ceilings”;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing
    • J78 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Public Policy (including comparable worth)

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