Beautiful or White? Discrimination in Group Formation
38 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2012
Date Written: February 2012
We explore the importance of appearance in the endogenous formation of groups using a series of experiments. Participants get to choose who they want in their group, and we manipulate the amount of payoff-relevant information on behavior, thereby making it costly to discriminate based on appearance. We draw participants from a representative sample of a demographically and economically diverse population. This allows broader applicability of our results. We find that beauty predicts desirability as a group member, yet it might mask racial preferences. Payoff-relevant information reduces discrimination a great deal, yet discrimination based on appearance remains. Although their behavior is the same, unattractive participants have a one in ten chance of making it to the most preferred group, whereas attractive participants have a one in three chance. Our results are most consistent with taste-based, rather than statistical, discrimination.
Keywords: Discrimination, Group Formation, Appearance
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