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Do Equal Employment Opportunity Statements Backfire? Evidence From A Natural Field Experiment On Job-Entry Decisions

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  • Andreas Leibbrandt
  • John A. List

Abstract

Labor force composition and the allocation of talent remain of vital import to modern economies. For their part, governments and companies around the globe have implemented equal employment opportunity (EEO) regulations to influence labor market flows. Even though such regulations are pervasive, surprisingly little is known about their impacts. We use a natural field experiment conducted across 10 U.S. cities to investigate if EEO statements in job advertisements affect the first step in the employment process, application rates. Making use of data from nearly 2,500 job seekers, we find considerable policy effects, but in an unexpected direction: the presence of an EEO statement dampens rather than encourages racial minorities’ willingness to apply for jobs. Importantly, the effects are particularly pronounced for educated job seekers and in cities with white majority populations. Complementary survey evidence suggests the underlying mechanism at work is “tokenism”, revealing that EEO statements backfire because racial minorities avoid environments in which they are perceived as regulatory, or symbolic, hires rather than being hired on their own merits. Beyond their practical and theoretical importance, our results highlight how field experiments can significantly improve policymaking. In this case, if one goal of EEO regulations is to enhance the pool of minority applicants, then it is not working.

Suggested Citation

  • Andreas Leibbrandt & John A. List, 2018. "Do Equal Employment Opportunity Statements Backfire? Evidence From A Natural Field Experiment On Job-Entry Decisions," NBER Working Papers 25035, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:25035
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    Cited by:

    1. Zhengyang Bao & Andreas Leibbrandt, 2020. "Tournaments with Safeguards: A Blessing or a Curse for Women?," Monash Economics Working Papers 02-20, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    2. Ohto Kanninen & Sanni Kiviholma & Tuomo Virkola, "undated". "Anatomy of An Anonymous Hiring Pilot," Working Papers 338, Työn ja talouden tutkimus LABORE, The Labour Institute for Economic Research LABORE.
    3. Nemmara K. Chidambaran & Yun Liu & Nagpurnanand Prabhala, 2022. "Director diversity and inclusion: At the table but in the game?," Financial Management, Financial Management Association International, vol. 51(1), pages 193-225, March.
    4. Steven W. Bradley & James R. Garven & Wilson W. Law & James E. West, 2022. "The impact of chief diversity officers on diverse faculty hiring," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 89(1), pages 3-36, July.
    5. Aaron D. Nichols & Jordan Axt & Evelyn Gosnell & Dan Ariely, 2023. "A field study of the impacts of workplace diversity on the recruitment of minority group members," Nature Human Behaviour, Nature, vol. 7(12), pages 2212-2227, December.
    6. Trieu, Chi, 2023. "Who's who: How uncertainty about the favored group effects outcomes of affirmative action," DICE Discussion Papers 405, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE).
    7. Darya Korlyakova, 2022. "Do Pessimistic Expectations About Discrimination Make Minorities Withdraw Their Effort? Causal Evidence," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp731, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
    8. Uddin, Main & Wang, Liang Choon & Smyth, Russell, 2021. "Do government-initiated energy comparison sites encourage consumer search and lower prices? Evidence from an online randomized controlled experiment in Australia," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 188(C), pages 167-182.
    9. Petters, Lea M. & Schröder, Marina, 2020. "Negative side effects of affirmative action: How quotas lead to distortions in performance evaluation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 130(C).
    10. Flory, Jeffrey A. & Leibbrandt, Andreas & Rott, Christina & Stoddard, Olga B., 2021. "Signals from On High and the Power of Growth Mindset: A Natural Field Experiment in Attracting Minorities to High-Profile Positions," IZA Discussion Papers 14383, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    11. Eva O. Arceo-Gomez & Raymundo M. Campos-Vazquez & Raquel Y. Badillo & Sergio Lopez-Araiza, 2022. "Gender stereotypes in job advertisements: What do they imply for the gender salary gap?," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 43(1), pages 65-102, March.
    12. Amano-Patiño, N. & Aramburu, J. & Contractor, Z., 2021. "The Effect of Affirmative Action on Workers’ Outcomes," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 2104, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing
    • J82 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards - - - Labor Force Composition
    • J88 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards - - - Public Policy
    • K31 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Labor Law

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