NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Affirmative Action in Hierarchies

Suzanne Scotchmer

NBER Working Paper No. 11213
Issued in March 2005
NBER Program(s):   LS   LE

If promotion in a hierarchy is based on a random signal of ability, rates of promotion will be affected by risk-taking. Further, the numbers and abilities of risk-takers and non-risk-takers will be different at each stage of the hierarchy, and the ratio will be changing. I show that, under mild conditions, more risk-takers than non-risk-takers will survive at early stages, but they will have lower ability. At later stages, this will be reversed: Fewer risk-takers than non-risk-takers survive, but they will have higher ability. I give several interpretations for how these theorems relate to affirmative action, in light of considerable evidence that males are more risk-taking than females.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w11213

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