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Incentives to Identify: Racial Identity in the Age of Affirmative Action

Author

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  • Antman, Francisca M.

    (University of Colorado, Boulder)

  • Duncan, Brian

    (University of Colorado Denver)

Abstract

It is almost universally assumed that race is an exogenously given trait that is not subject to change. But as race is most often self-reported by individuals who must weigh the costs and benefits of associating with minority groups, we ask whether racial self-identification responds to economic incentives. To address this question, we link racial self-identification with changes in state-level affirmative action policies in higher education, contracting, and employment. Consistent with supporting evidence showing that individuals from underrepresented minority groups face an incentive to identify under affirmative action, we find that once affirmative action is outlawed, they are less likely to identify with their minority group. In contrast, we find that individuals from overrepresented minority groups, who face a disincentive to identify under affirmative action, are more likely to identify with their minority group once affirmative action is banned. To our knowledge, this is the first study to document a causal relationship between racial self-identification and economic incentives in the United States. As such, it has broad implications for understanding the impact of affirmative action policies, estimating broader trends in racial disparities, and the emerging literature on the construction of race and individual identity.

Suggested Citation

  • Antman, Francisca M. & Duncan, Brian, 2014. "Incentives to Identify: Racial Identity in the Age of Affirmative Action," IZA Discussion Papers 8753, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp8753
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Brian Duncan & Stephen J. Trejo, 2011. "Intermarriage and the Intergenerational Transmission of Ethnic Identity and Human Capital for Mexican Americans," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(2), pages 195-227.
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    3. Peter Hinrichs, 2012. "The Effects of Affirmative Action Bans on College Enrollment, Educational Attainment, and the Demographic Composition of Universities," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(3), pages 712-722, August.
    4. Arcidiacono, Peter & Aucejo, Esteban & Coate, Patrick & Hotz, V. Joseph, 2012. "Affirmative Action and University Fit: Evidence from Proposition 209," IZA Discussion Papers 7000, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. Brian Duncan & Stephen J. Trejo, 2011. "Tracking Intergenerational Progress for Immigrant Groups: The Problem of Ethnic Attrition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 603-608, May.
    6. David Neumark & Harry Holzer, 2000. "Assessing Affirmative Action," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(3), pages 483-568, September.
    7. William Darity & Darrick Hamilton & Jason Dietrich, 2002. "Passing on blackness: Latinos, race, and earnings in the USA," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(13), pages 847-853.
    8. Mark C. Long, 2004. "Race and College Admissions: An Alternative to Affirmative Action?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(4), pages 1020-1033, November.
    9. Jessica S. Howell, 2010. "Assessing the Impact of Eliminating Affirmative Action in Higher Education," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(1), pages 113-166, January.
    10. Peter Arcidiacono, 2005. "Affirmative Action in Higher Education: How Do Admission and Financial Aid Rules Affect Future Earnings?," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(5), pages 1477-1524, September.
    11. Robert Fairlie & Justin Marion, 2012. "Affirmative action programs and business ownership among minorities and women," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 39(2), pages 319-339, September.
    12. Andrew M. Francis & Maria Tannuri-Pianto, 2013. "Endogenous Race in Brazil: Affirmative Action and the Construction of Racial Identity among Young Adults," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61(4), pages 731-753.
    13. Dickson, Lisa M., 2006. "Does ending affirmative action in college admissions lower the percent of minority students applying to college?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 109-119, February.
    14. Thomas J. Espenshade & Chang Y. Chung & Joan L. Walling, 2004. "Admission Preferences for Minority Students, Athletes, and Legacies at Elite Universities," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1422-1446, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hill, Andrew J., 2017. "State affirmative action bans and STEM degree completions," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 31-40.
    2. Peter McHenry & Melissa McInerney, 2015. "Estimating Hispanic-White Wage Gaps Among Women: The Importance of Controlling for Cost of Living," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 36(3), pages 249-273, September.
    3. Peter Hinrichs, 2020. "Affirmative Action and Racial Segregation," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63(2), pages 239-267.
    4. Francisca M. Antman & Brian Duncan & Stephen J. Trejo, 2020. "Ethnic attrition, assimilation, and the measured health outcomes of Mexican Americans," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 33(4), pages 1499-1522, October.
    5. Alberto Dávila & Marie T. Mora, 2016. "LEP Language Disability, Immigration Reform, and English-Language Acquisition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(5), pages 478-483, May.
    6. Andrew Francis-Tan & Zheng Mu, 2019. "Racial Revolution: Understanding the Resurgence of Ethnic Minority Identity in Modern China," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 38(5), pages 733-769, October.
    7. Hinrichs, Peter, 2014. "Affirmative action bans and college graduation rates," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 43-52.
    8. Rademakers, Robbert & van Hoorn, Andre, 2020. "Choosing Your Ethnicity: A Longitudinal Analysis of Ethnic Identity Choice and Intra-Individual Ethnicity Change," MPRA Paper 99184, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    identity; affirmative action; race;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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