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

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  • Claudia Goldin
  • Cecilia Rouse

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Claudia Goldin & Cecilia Rouse, 1997. "Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of "Blind" Auditions on Female Musicians," NBER Working Papers 5903, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5903
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J7 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination
    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor

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