Algorithmic Bias? An Empirical Study into Apparent Gender-Based Discrimination in the Display of STEM Career Ads

40 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2016 Last revised: 12 Mar 2018

Anja Lambrecht

London Business School

Catherine E. Tucker

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Management Science (MS)

Date Written: March 9, 2018

Abstract

We explore data from a field test of how an algorithm delivered ads promoting job opportunities in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. This ad was explicitly intended to be gender-neutral in its delivery. Empirically, however, fewer women saw the ad than men. This happened because younger women are a prized demographic and are more expensive to show ads to. An algorithm which simply optimizes cost-effectiveness in ad delivery will deliver ads that were intended to be gender-neutral in an apparently discriminatory way, due to crowding out. We show that this empirical regularity extends to other major digital platforms.

Keywords: Online Advertising, Algorithmic Bias, Social Media

Suggested Citation

Lambrecht, Anja and Tucker, Catherine E., Algorithmic Bias? An Empirical Study into Apparent Gender-Based Discrimination in the Display of STEM Career Ads (March 9, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2852260 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2852260

Anja Lambrecht (Contact Author)

London Business School ( email )

Regent's Park
London, NW1 4SA
United Kingdom

Catherine E. Tucker

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Management Science (MS) ( email )

100 Main St
E62-536
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

HOME PAGE: http://cetucker.scripts.mit.edu

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