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Is It How You Look or Speak That Matters? - An Experimental Study Exploring the Mechanisms of Ethnic Discrimination

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  • Rödin, Magnus

    () (Dept. of Economics, Stockholm University)

  • Özcan, Gülay

    () (Dept. of Economics, Stockholm University)

Abstract

Using a unique laboratory experiment where subjects are asked to guess the test performance of candidates presented by facial portraits and voice messages, this paper explores the following questions: Are beliefs about performance affected by if a candidate is perceived to have looks that are non-stereotypical for the dominant population and do these beliefs change if the candidate has native-like versus accented speech? The experiment is conducted in Sweden and the results show that candidates not perceived as stereotypically Swedish are considered to be worse performers. These beliefs are found in within-gender but not in cross-gender evaluations and are not eliminated when additional performance-related information about the candidates is provided. When candidates are presented by both looks and speech, differential evaluations based on looks disappear. Instead, we find strong negative beliefs about performance for candidates that speak Swedish with a foreign accent implying that ethnic stereotypes associated with speech override stereotypes associated with appearance. The negative beliefs associated with foreign-accented speech are not supported by corresponding mean differences in the candidates’ actual test performance.

Suggested Citation

  • Rödin, Magnus & Özcan, Gülay, 2011. "Is It How You Look or Speak That Matters? - An Experimental Study Exploring the Mechanisms of Ethnic Discrimination," Research Papers in Economics 2011:12, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:sunrpe:2011_0012
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Arai, Mahmood & Gartell, Marie & Rödin, Magnus & Özcan, Gülay, 2016. "Stereotypes of physical appearance and labor market chances," Working Paper Series 2016:20, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    2. Beaurain, Guillaume & Masclet, David, 2016. "Does affirmative action reduce gender discrimination and enhance efficiency? New experimental evidence," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 350-362.
    3. Dickinson, David L. & Masclet, David & Peterle, Emmanuel, 2018. "Discrimination as favoritism: The private benefits and social costs of in-group favoritism in an experimental labor market," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 220-236.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Experiment; Appearance; Speech; Beliefs; Performance; Stereotypes;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing

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