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Will Job Testing Harm Minority Workers?

  • David H. Autor
  • David Scarborough

Because minorities typically fare poorly on standardized tests, job testing is thought to pose an equity-efficiency trade-off: testing improves selection but reduces minority hiring. We develop a conceptual framework to assess when this tradeoff is likely to apply and evaluate the evidence for such a trade-off using data from a national retail firm whose 1,363 stores switched from informal to test-based worker screening over the course of on year. We document that testing yielded more productive hires at this firm -- raising median tenure by 10-plus percent. Consistent with prior research, minorities performed worse on the test. Yet, testing had no measurable impact on minority hiring, and productivity gains were uniformly large among minorities and non-minorities. These results suggest that job testing raised the precision of screening without introducing additional negative information about minority applicants, most plausibly because both the job test and the informal screen that preceded it were unbiased.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10763.

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Date of creation: Sep 2004
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Publication status: published as Autor, David and David Scarborough. "“Does Job Testing Harm Minority Workers? Evidence from Retail Establishments.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 123, 1 (November 2008): 219 – 277.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10763
Note: LS
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  13. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1973. "The Theory of 'Screening', Education, and the Distribution of Income," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 354, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
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