Attention Discrimination: Theory and Field Experiments

CERGE-EI Working Paper Series No. 499

49 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2013

See all articles by Vojtech Bartos

Vojtech Bartos

Charles University in Prague - CERGE-EI (Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute)

Michal Bauer

Charles University in Prague - Institute of Economic Studies; CERGE-EI

Julie Chytilová

Charles University in Prague - Department of Economics

Filip Matějka

Charles University in Prague - CERGE-EI (Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute)

Date Written: December 1, 2013

Abstract

We link two important ideas: attention is scarce and a lack of information about an individual drives discrimination in selection decisions. We model how knowledge of ethnicity influences allocation of attention to available information about an applicant. When only a small share of applicants is accepted, negative stereotypes are predicted to lower attention, while the effect is opposite when most applicants are accepted. We test for such “attention discrimination” in two field experiments. We send emails responding to job offers and apartment-rental advertisements and monitor information acquisition, a new feature in this type of experiment. We vary the names of applicants to signal ethnicity and find that minority names are about half as likely to receive an invitation for an apartment viewing or a job interview. The novel finding is that minority names affect the likelihood of resumes being read on the labor market as well as an applicant’s personal website being inspected on the housing market, but the effects are opposite across the two markets. These results support the model's assumption of endogenous attention, which magnifies the role of prior beliefs in discrimination. The model implies persistence of discrimination in selection decisions, even if information about individuals is available and there are no differences in preferences, lower returns to employment qualifications for negatively stereotyped groups, and for policy, the important role of the timing of when a group attribute is revealed.

Keywords: inattention, discrimination, field experiment, information acquisition monitoring

JEL Classification: C93, D83, J15, J71

Suggested Citation

Bartos, Vojtech and Bauer, Michal and Chytilová, Julie and Matějka, Filip, Attention Discrimination: Theory and Field Experiments (December 1, 2013). CERGE-EI Working Paper Series No. 499. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2370425 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2370425

Vojtech Bartos (Contact Author)

Charles University in Prague - CERGE-EI (Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute) ( email )

P.O. Box 882
7 Politickych veznu
Prague 1, 111 21
Czech Republic

HOME PAGE: http://www.cerge-ei.cz

Michal Bauer

Charles University in Prague - Institute of Economic Studies ( email )

Opletalova 26
Prague 1, 110 00
Czech Republic
+420 222 112 317 (Phone)
+420 222 112 304 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://ies.fsv.cuni.cz/index.php?module=kernel&action=user&id_user=183&lng=en_GB

CERGE-EI ( email )

P.O. Box 882
7 Politickych veznu
Prague 1, 111 21
Czech Republic

Julie Chytilová

Charles University in Prague - Department of Economics ( email )

Opletalova 26
Prague 1, 163 00
Czech Republic

HOME PAGE: http://ies.fsv.cuni.cz/index.php?module=kernel&action=user&id_user=130&lng=cs_CZ

Filip Matějka

Charles University in Prague - CERGE-EI (Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute) ( email )

P.O. Box 882
7 Politickych veznu
Prague 1, 111 21
Czech Republic

HOME PAGE: http://www.cerge-ei.cz

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
109
Abstract Views
992
rank
257,279
PlumX Metrics