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Attention Discrimination: Theory and Field Experiments

Author

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  • Filip Matejka

    (CERGE-EI)

Abstract

Attention is scarce and reading details of applications for a job, a flat rental, or a school admission is a matter of choice. We study how the knowledge of ethnicity impacts the level of attention to an individual and how that can give rise to discrimination. We show that the choices of attention combined with differences in beliefs about ethnic groups generate discrimination even if there are no differences in taste and if information about an individual is at hand, unlike existing theories. To test the theory, we perform correspondence field experiments. We send emails responding to job offers and to advertisements of flat rental, and vary name of applicants to signal ethnicity. We find that minority names are half as likely to receive initiation for a flat visit as well as for a job interview. To investigate whether decision-makers optimize attention based on beliefs and character of selection process, we monitor inspection of information provided by applicants on their personal website and in their resume. On the housing market, where only few applicants are not invited and thus it is more beneficial to inspect groups with low expected quality, we find that landlords are more likely to inspect personal website of minority applicants and are more responsive to manipulations in available information about minority compared to majority names. The effect of minority name on attention is opposite on the labor market, where the invitation rate is low. The proposed theory explains the set of findings, and it has policy implications for both the design of the selection process as well as potential impact of affirmative-action policies.

Suggested Citation

  • Filip Matejka, 2013. "Attention Discrimination: Theory and Field Experiments," 2013 Meeting Papers 798, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed013:798
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo, 2016. "Field Experiments on Discrimination," NBER Working Papers 22014, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing

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