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Systemic Discrimination: Theory and Measurement


  • Bohren, Aislinn
  • Hull, Peter
  • Imas, Alex


Economics often defines and measures discrimination as disparities stemming from direct effects of group identity. We develop new tools to model and measure systemic discrimination, defined as disparities stemming from differences in non-group characteristics. Systemic discrimination can arise from differences in signaling technologies and opportunities for skill development. We propose a measure based on a decomposition of total discrimination into direct and systemic components. The measure is illustrated in a series of hiring experiments and a novel Iterated Audit experimental paradigm with real hiring managers. Results highlight how direct discrimination in one domain can drive systemic discrimination in other domains.

Suggested Citation

  • Bohren, Aislinn & Hull, Peter & Imas, Alex, 2022. "Systemic Discrimination: Theory and Measurement," CEPR Discussion Papers 17136, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:17136

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    Cited by:

    1. Barron, Kai & Ditlmann, Ruth & Gehrig, Stefan & Schweighofer-Kodritsch, Sebastian, 2020. "Explicit and implicit belief-based gender discrimination: A hiring experiment," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Economics of Change SP II 2020-306, WZB Berlin Social Science Center.
    2. Abel, Martin & Burger, Rulof, 2023. "Unpacking Name-Based Race Discrimination," IZA Discussion Papers 16254, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Sona Badalyan & Darya Korlyakova & Rastislav Rehak, 2023. "Disclosure Discrimination: An Experiment Focusing on Communication in the Hiring Process," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp743, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
    4. Peter Andre, 2022. "Shallow Meritocracy," CRC TR 224 Discussion Paper Series crctr224_2022_318v3, University of Bonn and University of Mannheim, Germany.
    5. Åkesson, Jesper & Hahn, Robert & Metcalfe, Robert & Rasooly, Itzhak, 2022. "Race and Redistribution in the United States: An Experimental Analysis," SocArXiv 9pr34, Center for Open Science.
    6. Gawai, Vikas PD & Foltz, Jeremy D., 2023. "Discrimination in Science: Salaries of Foreign and US Born Land-Grant University Scientists," 2022 Annual Meeting, July 31-August 2, Anaheim, California 322134, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    7. Nicolás Ajzenman & Bruno Ferman & Sant’Anna Pedro C., 2023. "Discrimination in the Formation of Academic Networks: A Field Experiment on #EconTwitter," Working Papers 235, Red Nacional de Investigadores en Economía (RedNIE).
    8. Ewens, Michael, 2022. "Race and Gender in Entrepreneurial Finance," SocArXiv djf8z, Center for Open Science.
    9. Eyting, Markus, 2022. "Why do we discriminate? The role of motivated reasoning," SAFE Working Paper Series 356, Leibniz Institute for Financial Research SAFE.
    10. Th'eo Durandard, 2023. "Dynamic delegation in promotion contests," Papers 2308.05668,
    11. Kai Barron & Ruth K. Ditlmann & Stefan Gehrig & Sebastian Schweighofer-Kodritsch, 2024. "Explicit and Implicit Belief-Based Gender Discrimination: A Hiring Experiment," Berlin School of Economics Discussion Papers 0035, Berlin School of Economics.
    12. Yulia Evsyukova & Felix Rusche & Wladislaw Mill, 2023. "LinkedOut? A Field Experiment on Discrimination in Job Network Formation," CRC TR 224 Discussion Paper Series crctr224_2023_482, University of Bonn and University of Mannheim, Germany.
    13. Hirshman, Samuel D. & Willén, Alexander, 2022. "Does Increasing Risk Widen Gender Gaps?," Discussion Paper Series in Economics 20/2022, Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Economics.
    14. Paula Onuchic, 2022. "Recent Contributions to Theories of Discrimination," Papers 2205.05994,, revised Jun 2023.
    15. Jan Feld & Edwin Ip & Andreas Leibbrandt & Joseph Vecci, 2022. "Identifying and Overcoming Gender Barriers in Tech: A Field Experiment on Inaccurate Statistical Discrimination," Discussion Papers 2205, University of Exeter, Department of Economics.
    16. Joshua Grossman & Julian Nyarko & Sharad Goel, 2023. "Racial bias as a multi‐stage, multi‐actor problem: An analysis of pretrial detention," Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 20(1), pages 86-133, March.
    17. Markus Eyting, 2022. "Why do we Discriminate? The Role of Motivated Reasoning," Working Papers 2208, Gutenberg School of Management and Economics, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz.
    18. Benson, Alan & Lepage, Louis-Pierre, 2023. "Learning to Discriminate on the Job," Working Paper Series 10/2023, Stockholm University, Swedish Institute for Social Research.
    19. Ellen Sahlström & Mikko Silliman, 2024. "The Extent and Consequences of Teacher Biases against Immigrants," CESifo Working Paper Series 11050, CESifo.
    20. Sahlström, Ellen & Silliman, Mikko, 2024. "The Extent and Consequences of Teacher Biases against Immigrants," IZA Discussion Papers 16899, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

    More about this item


    Systemic discrimination; Racial/gender disparities; Dynamic discrimination;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing


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