Toward an Understanding of Why People Discriminate: Evidence from a Series of Natural Field Experiments

48 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2012

See all articles by Uri Gneezy

Uri Gneezy

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Rady School of Management

John A. List

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Michael K. Price

University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Date Written: February 2012

Abstract

Social scientists have presented evidence that suggests discrimination is ubiquitous: women, nonwhites, and the elderly have been found to be the target of discriminatory behavior across several labor and product markets. Scholars have been less successful at pinpointing the underlying motives for such discriminatory patterns. We employ a series of field experiments across several market and agent types to examine the nature and extent of discrimination. Our exploration includes examining discrimination based on gender, age, sexual orientation, race, and disability. Using data from more than 3000 individual transactions, we find evidence of discrimination in each market. Interestingly, we find that when the discriminator believes the object of discrimination is controllable, any observed discrimination is motivated by animus. When the object of discrimination is not due to choice, the evidence suggests that statistical discrimination is the underlying reason for the disparate behavior.

Suggested Citation

Gneezy, Uri and List, John A. and Price, Michael K., Toward an Understanding of Why People Discriminate: Evidence from a Series of Natural Field Experiments (February 2012). NBER Working Paper No. w17855. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2010387

Uri Gneezy (Contact Author)

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Rady School of Management ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Rady School of Management
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States

John A. List

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Michael K. Price

University of Tennessee, Knoxville ( email )

The Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research
Knoxville, TN 37996
United States

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