Diversity versus Equality

The Australian Behavioural Economics Team conducted a randomized trial of hiring in which applications for senior positions in the Australian Public Service were reviewed and ranked. By comparing outcomes in treatments in which gender, minority status and indigenous status could be inferred with outcomes using de-identifyed applications the researchers were able to test for bias and the effect of de-identification.

We found that the public servants engaged in positive (not negative) discrimination towards female and minority candidates:

Participants were 2.9%
more likely to shortlist female candidates and 3.2%
less likely to shortlist male applicants when they were identifiable, compared with when they were de-identified.

Minority males were 5.8%
more likely to be shortlisted and minority females were 8.6%
more likely to be
shortlisted when identifiable compared to when applications were de-identified.

The positive discrimination was strongest for Indigenous female candidates who were 22.2% more likely to be
shortlisted when identifiable compared to when the applications were de-identified.

Interestingly, male reviewers displayed markedly more positive discrimination in favour of minority candidates than
did female counterparts, and reviewers aged 40+ displayed much stronger affirmative action in favour for both
women and minorities than did younger ones.

The study was small and the participants knew they were in a study (although not what the study was studying).

This reminds me of the important Williams and Ceci paper which also found positive gender discrimination in academic hiring (with one notable exception of equal treatment):

The underrepresentation of women in academic science is typically attributed, both in scientific literature and in the media, to sexist hiring. Here we report five hiring experiments in which faculty evaluated hypothetical female and male applicants, using systematically varied profiles disguising identical scholarship, for assistant professorships in biology, engineering, economics, and psychology. Contrary to prevailing assumptions, men and women faculty members from all four fields preferred female applicants 2:1 over identically qualified males with matching lifestyles (single, married, divorced), with the exception of male economists, who showed no gender preference.

Hat tip: Phil Magness.


Comments for this post are closed