NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Do Field Experiments on Labor and Housing Markets Overstate Discrimination? A Re-examination of the Evidence

David Neumark, Judith Rich

NBER Working Paper No. 22278
Issued in May 2016, Revised in August 2017
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

There have been over 80 field experiments on traditional dimensions of discrimination in labor and housing markets since 2000, in 23 countries. These studies nearly always find evidence of discrimination against minorities. However, the estimates of discrimination in these studies can be biased if there is differential variation in the unobservable determinants of productivity or quality of majority and minority groups, so it is possible that this experimental literature as a whole overstates the evidence of discrimination. We re-assess the evidence from the 10 existing studies of discrimination that have sufficient information to correct for this bias. For the housing market studies, the estimated effect of discrimination is robust to this correction. For the labor market studies, in contrast, the evidence is less robust, as just over half of the estimates of discrimination either fall to near zero, become statistically insignificant, or change sign.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22278

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