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How Costly Is Diversity? Affirmative Action in Light of Gender Differences in Competitiveness

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  • Muriel Niederle

    () (Department of Economics, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305; and National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138)

  • Carmit Segal

    () (Department of Economics, University of Zurich, CH-8006 Zurich, Switzerland)

  • Lise Vesterlund

    () (Department of Economics, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260; and National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138)

Abstract

Affirmative action is often criticized for causing reverse discrimination and lowering the qualifications of those hired under the policy. However, the magnitude of such adverse effects depends on whether the best suited candidate is hired absent the policy. Indeed affirmative action may compensate for the distortion discrimination imposes on the selection of candidates. This paper asks whether affirmative action can have a similar corrective impact when qualified individuals fail to apply for a job. We evaluate the effect of introducing a gender quota in an environment where high-performing women fail to enter competitions they can win. We show that guaranteeing women equal representation among winners increases their entry. The response exceeds that predicted by the change in probability of winning and is in part driven by women being more willing to compete against other women. The consequences are substantial as the boost in supply essentially eliminates the anticipated costs of the policy. This paper was accepted by Uri Gneezy, behavioral economics.

Suggested Citation

  • Muriel Niederle & Carmit Segal & Lise Vesterlund, 2013. "How Costly Is Diversity? Affirmative Action in Light of Gender Differences in Competitiveness," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 59(1), pages 1-16, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:59:y:2013:i:1:p:1-16
    DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.1120.1602
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    gender differences; competitiveness; affirmative action;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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