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Government-Mandated Discriminatory Policies


  • Fang, Hanming

    () (Yale University)

  • Norman, Peter

    () (University of Wisconsin-Madison)


This paper provides a simple explanation for why some minority groups are economically successful, despite being subject to government-mandated discriminatory policies. We study an economy with private and public sectors in which workers invest in imperfectly observable skills that are important to the private sector but not to the public sector. A law allows native majority workers to be employed in the public sector with positive probability while excluding the minority from it. We show that even when the public sector offers the highest wage rate, it is still possible that the discriminated group is, on average, economically more successful. The reason is that the preferential policy lowers the majority's incentive to invest in imperfectly observable skills by exacerbating the informational free riding problem in the private sector labor market

Suggested Citation

  • Fang, Hanming & Norman, Peter, 2001. "Government-Mandated Discriminatory Policies," Working Paper Series 562, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:0562

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Moro, Andrea & Norman, Peter, 2003. "Affirmative action in a competitive economy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(3-4), pages 567-594, March.
    2. Becker, Gary S & Tomes, Nigel, 1976. "Child Endowments and the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(4), pages 143-162, August.
    3. Cole, Harold L & Mailath, George J & Postlewaite, Andrew, 1992. "Social Norms, Savings Behavior, and Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(6), pages 1092-1125, December.
    4. Kenneth Arrow, 1971. "The Theory of Discrimination," Working Papers 403, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    5. Borjas, George J, 1987. "Self-Selection and the Earnings of Immigrants," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 531-553, September.
    6. George J. Borjas, 1994. "The Economics of Immigration," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 1667-1717, December.
    7. Peter Norman, 2003. "Statistical Discrimination and Efficiency," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(3), pages 615-627.
    8. Greif, Avner, 1994. "Cultural Beliefs and the Organization of Society: A Historical and Theoretical Reflection on Collectivist and Individualist Societies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 912-950, October.
    9. Phelps, Edmund S, 1972. "The Statistical Theory of Racism and Sexism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 659-661, September.
    10. Hanming Fang, 2001. "Social Culture and Economic Performance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 924-937, September.
    11. Coate, Stephen & Loury, Glenn C, 1993. "Will Affirmative-Action Policies Eliminate Negative Stereotypes?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1220-1240, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sato, Hiroshi & Li, Shi, 2007. "Class Origin, Family Culture, and Intergenerational Correlation of Education in Rural China," IZA Discussion Papers 2642, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Jimmy Chan & Erik Eyster, 2002. "Admission Impossible? Self Interest and Affirmative Action," Economics Working Paper Archive 479, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
    3. Sato, Hiroshi & Li, Shi, 2007. "Revolution and Family in Rural China: Influence of Family Background on Current Family Wealth," IZA Discussion Papers 3223, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item


    Discrimination; Informational Free Riding; Income Distribution;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • J45 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Public Sector Labor Markets
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing

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