The Heterogeneous Effect of Affirmative Action on Performance

Forthcoming, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization

Harvard Law School John M. Olin Center Discussion Paper No. 805

58 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2015 Last revised: 21 Dec 2018

See all articles by Anat Bracha

Anat Bracha

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Alma Cohen

Harvard Law School; Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Lynn Conell-Price

Carnegie Mellon University

Date Written: January 2015

Abstract

This paper experimentally investigates the effect of gender-based affirmative action (AA) on performance in the lab, focusing on a tournament environment. The tournament is based on GRE math questions commonly used in graduate school admission, and at which women are known to perform worse on average than men. We find heterogeneous effect of AA on female participants: AA lowers the performance of high-ability women and increases the performance of low-ability women. Our results are consistent with two possible mechanisms—one is that AA changes incentives differentially for low- and high-ability women, and the second is that AA triggers stereotype threat. An earlier version of this paper was circulated as “Affirmative Action and Stereotype Threat.”

Keywords: Affirmative action, stereotype threat, gender differences, GRE performance

JEL Classification: C91, I28, J16, J78, K19, K31

Suggested Citation

Bracha, Anat and Cohen, Alma and Conell-Price, Lynn, The Heterogeneous Effect of Affirmative Action on Performance (January 2015). Forthcoming, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Harvard Law School John M. Olin Center Discussion Paper No. 805 , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2563772 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2563772

Anat Bracha

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston ( email )

600 Atlantic Ave.
Boston, MA 02210
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/anatbracha/

Alma Cohen (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
(617) 496-4099 (Phone)
(617) 812-0554 (Fax)

Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics ( email )

Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, 69978
Israel

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )

c/o the Royal Academies of Belgium
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1000 Brussels
Belgium

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Lynn Conell-Price

Carnegie Mellon University ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

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