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Affirmative Action in Hierarchies


  • Suzanne Scotchmer

    (University of California, Berkeley & NBER)


There is considerable evidence that males are more prone to take risks than females. This difference has implications for rates of promotion in hierarchies where promotion is based on random signals of ability. I explore the promotion consequences of three types of performance standards: gender-blind standards, standards designed to promote agents of equal ability on average, and standards designed to promote equal numbers of both genders. These three objectives lead to different promotion standards, which highlights among other things that the goal of affirmative action is not well defined. Lower promotion standards for females can be necessary to ensure either equal abilities or equal numbers in the promoted populations.

Suggested Citation

  • Suzanne Scotchmer, 2003. "Affirmative Action in Hierarchies," Industrial Organization 0303005, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpio:0303005
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman, 2002. "Sex Differences and Statistical Stereotyping in Attitudes Toward Financial Risk," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-03, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    2. Shelly J. Lundberg, 1991. "The Enforcement of Equal Opportunity Laws Under Imperfect Information: Affirmative Action and Alternatives," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(1), pages 309-326.
    3. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman & Nancy Lutz & V. Padmanbhan, 1997. "Playing it Safe: Men, Women, and Risk Aversion," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-42, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    4. Paul Milgrom & Sharon Oster, 1987. "Job Discrimination, Market Forces, and the Invisibility Hypothesis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 102(3), pages 453-476.
    5. Jianakoplos, Nancy Ammon & Bernasek, Alexandra, 1998. "Are Women More Risk Averse?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 36(4), pages 620-630, October.
    6. David Neumark & Harry Holzer, 2000. "Assessing Affirmative Action," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(3), pages 483-568, September.
    7. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 2008. "Men, Women and Risk Aversion: Experimental Evidence," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier.
    8. Dekel, Eddie & Scotchmer, Suzanne, 1999. "On the Evolution of Attitudes towards Risk in Winner-Take-All Games," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 125-143, July.
    9. Lundberg, Shelly J & Startz, Richard, 1983. "Private Discrimination and Social Intervention in Competitive Labor Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(3), pages 340-347, June.
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    JEL classification:

    • J7 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination

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