Algorithmic Fairness and Economics

The Journal of Economic Perspectives

Columbia Business School Research Paper

31 Pages Posted: 4 Apr 2019 Last revised: 24 Feb 2020

See all articles by Bo Cowgill

Bo Cowgill

Columbia University - Columbia Business School

Catherine E. Tucker

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

Date Written: February 14, 2020


We develop an economic perspective on algorithmic fairness and the surrounding empirical, theoretical and policy issues. Our perspective draws from clear parallels between algorithms and issues in economics of discrimination, crime, personnel and technological innovation; as well as more subtle connections to environmental economics, product safety regulation, behavioral economics and economics of information. We highlight the distinction between biased algorithmic predictions and biased algorithmic objectives. We conclude by discussing economic issues in policy policy and managerial practices around reducing algorithmic unfairness.

Keywords: economics, algorithms, bias, fairness

JEL Classification: J7, J16

Suggested Citation

Cowgill, Bo and Tucker, Catherine E., Algorithmic Fairness and Economics (February 14, 2020). The Journal of Economic Perspectives; Columbia Business School Research Paper. Available at SSRN: or

Bo Cowgill (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Columbia Business School ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Catherine E. Tucker

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

100 Main St
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States


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