Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Papers,
Lund University, Department of Economics

No 2021:7: The Inelastic Demand for Affirmative Action

Demid Getik (), Marco Islam () and Margaret Samahita ()
Additional contact information
Demid Getik: Department of Economics, Lund University, Postal: Department of Economics, School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Box 7082, S-220 07 Lund, Sweden
Marco Islam: Department of Economics, Lund University, Postal: Department of Economics, School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Box 7082, S-220 07 Lund, Sweden
Margaret Samahita: School of Economics, University College Dublin

Abstract: We study the origins of support for gender-related affirmative action (AA) in two pre-registered online experiments (N = 1, 700). Participants act as employers who decide whether to use AA in hiring job candidates. We implement three treatments to disentangle the preference for AA stemming from i) perceived gender differences in productivity, ii) beliefs about AA effects on productivity, or iii) other non-material motives. To test i), we provide information to employers that there is no gender gap in productivity. To test ii), we inform the candidates about the hiring rule ex-ante, allowing us to observe how AA is expected to affect productivity. To test iii), we remove the payment to the employers based on the chosen candidates’ productiv- ity, thus making AA cheaper. We do not find significant differences in AA support across treatments, despite successfully altering beliefs about expected productivity differences. Our results suggest that AA choice reflects a more intrinsic and inelastic preference for advancing female candidates.

Keywords: affirmative action; beliefs; gender; information; institution

JEL-codes: C91; D02; D83; J38; J71

48 pages, May 12, 2021

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