Will Job Testing Harm Minority Workers?

56 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2004 Last revised: 24 Aug 2009

See all articles by David H. Autor

David H. Autor

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

David Scarborough

Unicru, Inc.

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Date Written: September 2004


Because minorities typically fare poorly on standardized tests, job testing is thought to pose an equity-efficiency trade-off: testing improves selection but reduces minority hiring. We develop a conceptual framework to assess when this tradeoff is likely to apply and evaluate the evidence for such a trade-off using data from a national retail firm whose 1,363 stores switched from informal to test-based worker screening over the course of on year. We document that testing yielded more productive hires at this firm -- raising median tenure by 10-plus percent. Consistent with prior research, minorities performed worse on the test. Yet, testing had no measurable impact on minority hiring, and productivity gains were uniformly large among minorities and non-minorities. These results suggest that job testing raised the precision of screening without introducing additional negative information about minority applicants, most plausibly because both the job test and the informal screen that preceded it were unbiased.

Suggested Citation

Autor, David H. and Scarborough, David, Will Job Testing Harm Minority Workers? (September 2004). NBER Working Paper No. w10763, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=592142

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David Scarborough

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