Social, Behavioral and Experimental Economics Seminar: Aislinn Bohren
4:00 p.m. -
Blau B3560, Ross School of Business and online
Systemic Discrimination: Theory and Measurement (joint with Peter Hull and Alex Imas)
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Economics tends to define and measure discrimination as disparities stemming from the direct effects of protected group membership. But work in other fields notes that such measures are incomplete, as they can miss important systemic (indirect) channels. For example, racial disparities in criminal records due to discrimination in policing can lead to disparate outcomes for equally-qualified job applicants despite a race-neutral hiring rule. We develop new tools for modeling and measuring such systemic forms of discrimination. We formalize systemic discrimination as disparities arising from differences in non-group characteristics, such as criminal records, among equally-qualified individuals. Systemic disparities can arise both from differences in signaling technologies and differences in opportunities for skill development. Standard tools for measuring direct discrimination, such as audit or correspondence studies, cannot detect systemic discrimination. Instead, we propose a measure based on a decomposition of total discrimination — disparities among equally-qualified individuals — into direct and systemic components. To bring this decomposition to data, we develop a novel Iterated Audit experimental paradigm and apply it in a series of hiring experiments and a lab-in-the-field study using real hiring managers. Our findings highlight how discrimination in one domain, due to either accurate beliefs or bias, can drive persistent disparities through systemic channels — even when direct discrimination is eliminated.
Aislinn Bohren is an associate professor in the Economics Department at Penn. She studies various topics in microeconomics with a focus on models of information, and how individuals interact in dynamic settings, as well as empirical work on discrimination and belief formation. Her research explores questions related to learning under model misspecification, discrimination, information aggregation, moral hazard and the econometrics of randomized experiments. The work on discrimination has both theoretical and empirical components, and builds on her research on learning under model misspecification. Her work in the other four areas is theoretical, and includes applications to designing rating systems, information campaigns and committees, and providing incentives in online labor markets. Professor Bohren received her PhD in economics from the University of California San Diego and her BS from the University of Richmond. She is a research fellow at the Centre for Economic Policy Research, a member of the Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Global Working Group, and an associate editor at the American Economic Review, Games and Economic Behavior, Journal of Economic Literature and Theoretical Economics.