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Attention Discrimination: Theory and Field Experiments with Monitoring Information Acquisition


  • Bartos, Vojtech

    () (CERGE-EI)

  • Bauer, Michal

    () (Charles University, Prague)

  • Chytilová, Julie

    () (Charles University, Prague)

  • Matejka, Filip

    () (CERGE-EI)


We link two important ideas: attention is scarce and lack of information about an individual drives discrimination in selection decisions. Our model of allocation of costly attention implies that applicants from negatively stereotyped groups face "attention discrimination": less attention in highly selective cherry-picking markets, where more attention helps applicants, and more attention in lemon-dropping markets, where it harms them. To test the prediction, we integrate tools to monitor information acquisition into correspondence field experiments. In both countries we study we find that unfavorable signals, minority names, or unemployment, systematically reduce employers' efforts to inspect resumes. Also consistent with the model, in the rental housing market, which is much less selective than labor markets, we find landlords acquire more information about minority relative to majority applicants. We discuss implications of endogenous attention for magnitude and persistence of discrimination in selection decisions, returns to human capital and, potentially, for policy.

Suggested Citation

  • Bartos, Vojtech & Bauer, Michal & Chytilová, Julie & Matejka, Filip, 2014. "Attention Discrimination: Theory and Field Experiments with Monitoring Information Acquisition," IZA Discussion Papers 8058, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp8058

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    1. repec:eee:gamebe:v:107:y:2018:i:c:p:238-252 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Alain Cohn & Michel André Maréchal & Frédéric Schneider & Roberto A. Weber, 2015. "Job history, work attitude, and employability," ECON - Working Papers 210, Department of Economics - University of Zurich, revised Apr 2016.
    3. Wolter, Stefan C. & Zumbühl, Maria, 2017. "The Native-Migrant Gap in the Progression into and through Upper-Secondary Education," IZA Discussion Papers 11217, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Asali, Muhammad & Pignatti, Norberto & Skhirtladze, Sophiko, 2017. "Employment Discrimination in Georgia: Evidence from a Field Experiment," MPRA Paper 78230, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Martin Abel, 2017. "Labor market discrimination and sorting: Evidence from South Africa," SALDRU Working Papers 205, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    6. Emma Boswell Dean & Frank Schilbach & Heather Schofield, 2017. "Poverty and Cognitive Function," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Poverty Traps National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Matejka, Filip & Tabellini, Guido, 2015. "Electoral Competition with Rationally Inattentive Voters," CEPR Discussion Papers 10888, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Egan, Mark L. & Matvos, Gregor & Seru, Amit, 2017. "When Harry Fired Sally: The Double Standard in Punishing Misconduct," Research Papers 3510, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    9. Vecci, Joseph & Zelinsky, Tomas, 2016. "Social Identity and Role Models," Working Papers in Economics 672, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    10. Xavier Gabaix, 2017. "Behavioral Inattention," NBER Working Papers 24096, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Boyd-Swan, Casey & Herbst, Chris M., 2017. "Racial and Ethnic Discrimination in the Labor Market for Child Care Teachers," IZA Discussion Papers 11140, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item


    monitoring information acquisition; discrimination; attention; field experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • 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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