Will Job Testing Harm Minority Workers?

David H. Autor, David Scarborough

NBER Working Paper No. 10763
Issued in September 2004, Revised in February 2007
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

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.

download in pdf format
   (615 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w10763

Published: Autor, David and David Scarborough. "“Does Job Testing Harm Minority Workers? Evidence from Retail Establishments.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 123, 1 (November 2008): 219 – 277.

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Bertrand and Mullainathan w9873 Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination
Blanchflower w13972 Minority Self-Employment in the United States and the Impact of Affirmative Action Programs
Niederle and Roth w13529 The Effects of a Centralized Clearinghouse on Job Placement, Wages, and Hiring Practices
Cesur, Tekin, and Ulker w22522 Can Natural Gas Save Lives? Evidence from the Deployment of a Fuel Delivery System in a Developing Country
Bate, Jin, and Mathur w16854 Does Price Reveal Poor-Quality Drugs? Evidence from 17 Countries
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us