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Information and racial exclusion


  • Shelly Lundberg


  • Richard Startz



This paper presents several economic models that explore the relationships between imperfect information, racial income disparities, and segregation. The use of race as a signal arises here, as in models of statistical discrimination, from imperfect information about the return to transactions with particular agents. In a search framework, signaling supports not simply a discriminatory equilibrium, but a pattern of racially segregated transactions, which in turn perpetuates the informational asymmetries. Minority groups necessarily suffer disproportionately from segregation, since the degree to which transactions opportunities are curtailed depends upon group size, as well as the informational “distance” between racial groups. However, in some variants of the model, minority agents will self-segregate since they face an adverse selection of majority agents who are willing to trade with them. We also show that, if agents are able to learn from transactions, racial signaling can emerge with only minimal assumptions about the ex ante importance of race.
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Suggested Citation

  • Shelly Lundberg & Richard Startz, 2007. "Information and racial exclusion," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 20(3), pages 621-642, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:jopoec:v:20:y:2007:i:3:p:621-642
    DOI: 10.1007/s00148-005-0060-9

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rajiv Sethi & Rohini Somanathan, 2004. "Inequality and Segregation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(6), pages 1296-1321, December.
    2. Altonji, Joseph G. & Blank, Rebecca M., 1999. "Race and gender in the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 48, pages 3143-3259 Elsevier.
    3. Patrick Bayer & Robert McMillan & Kim Rueben, 2004. "Residential Segregation in General Equilibrium," Working Papers 885, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
    4. Edward P. Lazear, 1999. "Culture and Language," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages 95-126, December.
    5. Lundberg, Shelly J & Startz, Richard, 1983. "Private Discrimination and Social Intervention in Competitive Labor Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(3), pages 340-347, June.
    6. Phelps, Edmund S, 1972. "The Statistical Theory of Racism and Sexism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 659-661, September.
    7. Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 991-1013, September.
    8. Dennis J. Aigner & Glen G. Cain, 1977. "Statistical Theories of Discrimination in Labor Markets," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 30(2), pages 175-187, January.
    9. Larry Samuelson & George J. Mailath & Avner Shaked, 2000. "Endogenous Inequality in Integrated Labor Markets with Two-Sided Search," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 46-72, March.
    10. Joseph G. Altonji & Charles R. Pierret, 2001. "Employer Learning and Statistical Discrimination," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 313-350.
    11. Michael Spence, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-374.
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    Cited by:

    1. Harbaugh, Rick & To, Ted, 2014. "Opportunistic discrimination," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 192-204.
    2. Houy, Nicolas, 2006. "Exclusion by cognitive limitation," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 90(3), pages 317-320, March.
    3. Borooah, Vani & Myers, Samuel, 2014. "Discriminatory Behaviour: Issues Related to Theory and Measurement," MPRA Paper 75712, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Osiris Jorge, Parcero & Adolfo, Cristobal-Campoamor, 2009. "Dynamics of neighborhood formation and segregation by income," MPRA Paper 16936, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item


    Discrimination; Race; Inequality; Imperfect information; J15; J71; D83;

    JEL classification:

    • J7 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness


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