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Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of "Blind" Auditions on Female Musicians

  • Claudia Goldin
  • Cecilia Rouse

Discrimination against women has been alleged in hiring practices for many occupations, but it is extremely difficult to demonstrate sex-biased hiring. A change in the way symphony orchestras recruit musicians provides an unusual way to test for sex-biased hiring. To overcome possible biases in hiring, most orchestras revised their audition policies in the 1970s and 1980s. A major change involved the use of blind' auditions with a screen' to conceal the identity of the candidate from the jury. Female musicians in the top five symphony orchestras in the United States were less than 5% of all players in 1970 but are 25% today. We ask whether women were more likely to be advanced and/or hired with the use of blind' auditions. Using data from actual auditions in an individual fixed-effects framework, we find that the screen increases by 50% the probability a woman will be advanced out of certain preliminary rounds. The screen also enhances, by severalfold, the likelihood a female contestant will be the winner in the final round. Using data on orchestra personnel, the switch to blind' auditions can explain between 30% and 55% of the increase in the proportion female among new hires and between 25% and 46% of the increase in the percentage female in the orchestras since 1970.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5903.

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Date of creation: Jan 1997
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Goldin, Claudia and Cecilia Rouse. "Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact Of 'Blind' Auditions On Female Musicians," American Economic Review, 2000, v90(4,Sep), 715-741.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5903
Note: LS
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  1. Blank, Rebecca M, 1991. "The Effects of Double-Blind versus Single-Blind Reviewing: Experimental Evidence from The American Economic Review," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1041-67, December.
  2. H. Holzer & D. Neumark, . "Are affirmative action hires less qualified? Evidence from employer-employee data on new hires," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1113-96, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  3. Richard B. Freeman, 1983. "Longitudinal Analyses of the Effects of Trade Unions," NBER Working Papers 1207, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. David Neumark & Roy J. Bank & Kyle D. Van Nort, 1995. "Sex Discrimination in Restaurant Hiring: An Audit Study," NBER Working Papers 5024, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Kenney, Genevieve M & Wissoker, Douglas A, 1994. "An Analysis of the Correlates of Discrimination Facing Young Hispanic Job-Seekers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 674-83, June.
  6. Paula England, 1982. "The Failure of Human Capital Theory to Explain Occupational Sex Segregation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 17(3), pages 358-370.
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