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Are Affirmative Action Hires Less Qualified? Evidence from Employer-Employee Data on New Hires

  • Harry Holzer
  • David Neumark

In this paper we use micro-level data on employers and employees to investigate whether Affirmative Action procedures lead firms to hire minority or female employees who are less qualified than workers who might otherwise be hired. Our measures of qualifications include the educational attainment of the workers hired (both absolutely and relative to job requirements), skill requirements of the job into which they are hired, and a variety of outcome measures that are presumably related to worker performance on the job. The analysis is based on a representative sample of over 3,200 employers in four major metropolitan areas in the U.S. Our results show some evidence of lower educational qualifications among blacks and Hispanics hired under Affirmative Action, but not among white women. Further, our results show little evidence of substantially weaker job performance among most groups of minority and female Affirmative Action hires.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5603.

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Date of creation: Jun 1996
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Publication status: published as Journal of Labor Economics, Vol. 17, no. 3 (July 1999): 534-569
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5603
Note: LS
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  1. Joseph G. Altonji & Charles R. Pierret, 1996. "Employer Learning and the Signaling Value of Education," NBER Working Papers 5438, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Jonathan S. Leonard, 1984. "Antidiscrimination or Reverse Discrimination: The Impact of Changing Demographics, Title VII, and Affirmative Action on Productivity," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 19(2), pages 145-174.
  3. Coate, Stephen & Loury, Glenn C, 1993. "Will Affirmative-Action Policies Eliminate Negative Stereotypes?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1220-40, December.
  4. Leonard, Jonathan S, 1990. "The Impact of Affirmative Action Regulation and Equal Employment Law on Black Employment," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 47-63, Fall.
  5. Loury, Linda Datcher & Garman, David, 1995. "College Selectivity and Earnings," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(2), pages 289-308, April.
  6. Daniel Immergluck, 1996. "What employers want: Job prospects for less-educated workers," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer, vol. 24(4), pages 135-143, June.
  7. Barron, John M & Black, Dan A & Loewenstein, Mark A, 1989. "Job Matching and On-the-Job Training," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(1), pages 1-19, January.
  8. Oettinger, Gerald S, 1996. "Statistical Discrimination and the Early Career Evolution of the Black-White Wage Gap," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(1), pages 52-78, January.
  9. Smith, James P & Welch, Finis, 1984. "Affirmative Action and Labor Markets," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 2(2), pages 269-301, April.
  10. Bergmann, Barbara R, 1989. "Does the Market for Women's Labor Need Fixing?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 43-60, Winter.
  11. Neumark, David, 1996. "Sex Discrimination in Restaurant Hiring: An Audit Study," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(3), pages 915-41, August.
  12. Leonard, Jonathan S, 1989. "Women and Affirmative Action," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 61-75, Winter.
  13. H. J. Holzer, . "Employer hiring decisions and antidiscrimination policy," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1085-96, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  14. Anderson, Bernard E, 1996. "The Ebb and Flow of Enforcing Executive Order 11246," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 298-301, May.
  15. Barron, John M & Berger, Mark C & Black, Dan A, 1997. "Employer Search, Training, and Vacancy Duration," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(1), pages 167-92, January.
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