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Does Job Testing Harm Minority Workers? Evidence from Retail Establishments

  • David H. Autor

    (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NBER, and IZA)

  • David Scarborough

    (Black Hills State University and Kronos, Inc.)

Because minorities typically fare poorly on standardized tests, job testing is thought to pose an equality-efficiency trade-off: testing improves selection but reduces minority hiring. We develop a conceptual framework to assess when this trade-off is likely to apply and evaluate the evidence for such a trade-off using hiring and productivity data from a national retail firm whose 1,363 stores switched from informal to test-based worker screening over the course of one year. We document that testing yielded more productive hires at this firm-raising mean and median tenure by 10% or more. Consistent with prior research, minorities performed worse on the test. Yet, testing had no measurable impact on minority hiring, and productivity gains were uniformly large among minority and nonminority hires. These results suggest that job testing raised the precision of screening without introducing additional negative information about minority applicants, most plausibly because both the job test and the informal screen that preceded it were unbiased. (c) 2008 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology..

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File URL: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1162/qjec.2008.123.1.219
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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 123 (2008)
Issue (Month): 1 (02)
Pages: 219-277

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:123:y:2008:i:1:p:219-277
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