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Job assignment and promotion under statistical discrimination: evidence from the early careers of lawyers

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  • Lehmann, Jee-Yeon

Abstract

Minorities continue to be severely underrepresented at the top levels of most occupations despite making dramatic gains in initial access to them. This fact is particularly striking in the legal profession where blacks are well represented in each associate class yet face significantly lower probabilities of making partner. To explain this divergence in the career paths of blacks and whites, I develop a dynamic model of statistical discrimination in which firms diversify their workforce by lowering the hiring standard for blacks. Despite such a diversity goal at hiring, task assignment and promotion decisions are not constrained by this policy. In this institutional setting, the model predicts that although blacks are more likely to be hired compared to observably similar whites, they are more likely to be placed in worse tasks and less likely to be promoted conditional on the same set of observables. However, conditional on task assignment, blacks and whites face similar promotion rates. I test the model's predictions using new data from the After the JD study -- a unique longitudinal survey tracking the professional lives of more than 4,000 lawyers. Compared to whites of similar credentials, blacks are much more likely to be hired into the best law firms. However, they are assigned to worse tasks and are less likely to be a partner. This black-white difference in promotion rates can be explained by quality differences in task assignments early in the associates' careers even controlling for measures of effort and career preferences. Results from this paper provide a unique explanation for the underrepresentation of minorities at the top of professional ladders by revealing how incompatible strategies in job assignment can reduce the number of minority promotions compared to the case without affirmative action.

Suggested Citation

  • Lehmann, Jee-Yeon, 2011. "Job assignment and promotion under statistical discrimination: evidence from the early careers of lawyers," MPRA Paper 33466, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:33466
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    File URL: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/33466/1/MPRA_paper_33466.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Francine Blau & Jed DeVaro, 2006. "New Evidence on Gender Differences in Promotion Rates: An Empirical Analysis of a Sample of New Hires," Working Papers 891, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    2. Rebitzer, James B & Taylor, Lowell J, 1995. "Do Labor Markets Provide Enough Short-Hour Jobs? An Analysis of Work Hours and Work Incentives," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 33(2), pages 257-273, April.
    3. Suman Ghosh & Michael Waldman, 2010. "Standard promotion practices versus up-or-out contracts," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 41(2), pages 301-325.
    4. David Bjerk, 2008. "Glass Ceilings or Sticky Floors? Statistical Discrimination in a Dynamic Model of Hiring and Promotion," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(530), pages 961-982, July.
    5. James B. Rebitzer & Lowell J. Taylor, 2007. "When Knowledge Is an Asset: Explaining the Organizational Structure of Large Law Firms," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 201-229.
    6. Neal, Derek A & Johnson, William R, 1996. "The Role of Premarket Factors in Black-White Wage Differences," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 869-895, October.
    7. Hanming Fang & Andrea Moro, 2010. "Theories of Statistical Discrimination and Affirmative Action: A Survey," NBER Working Papers 15860, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Christopher Avery & Susan Athey & Peter Zemsky, 2000. "Mentoring and Diversity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 765-786, September.
    9. Kevin Lang & Jee-Yeon K. Lehmann, 2012. "Racial Discrimination in the Labor Market: Theory and Empirics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(4), pages 959-1006, December.
    10. Winter-Ebmer, Rudolf & Zweimuller, Josef, 1997. "Unequal Assignment and Unequal Promotion in Job Ladders," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 43-71, January.
    11. Fryer, Roland, 2007. "Belief Flipping in a Dynamic Model of Statistical Discrimination," Scholarly Articles 2955768, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    12. Landers, Renee M & Rebitzer, James B & Taylor, Lowell J, 1996. "Rat Race Redux: Adverse Selection in the Determination of Work Hours in Law Firms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 329-348, June.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Harris, Matthew, 2015. "The impact of body weight on occupational mobility and career development," MPRA Paper 61924, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Epstein, Gil S. & Gafni, Dalit & Siniver, Erez, 2014. "Even Education and Experience Has Its Limits: Closing the Wage Gap," IZA Discussion Papers 8737, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Lehmann, Jee-Yeon & Smith, Jeremy, 2011. "Attorney empowerment in Voir Dire and the racial composition of juries," MPRA Paper 36338, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Kevin Lang & Jee-Yeon K. Lehmann, 2012. "Racial Discrimination in the Labor Market: Theory and Empirics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(4), pages 959-1006, December.
    5. Bond, Timothy N. & Lehmann, Jee-Yeon K., 2018. "Prejudice and racial matches in employment," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 271-293.
    6. Holger Sieg & Yu Wang, 2017. "The Impact of Student Debt on Education, Career, and Marriage Choices of Female Lawyers," NBER Working Papers 23453, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Peter Arcidiacono & Michael Lovenheim, 2016. "Affirmative Action and the Quality-Fit Trade-Off," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 54(1), pages 3-51, March.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Discrimination; Job assignment; promotion; lawyers; statistical discrimination; inequality;

    JEL classification:

    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General
    • J7 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination

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