Will Job Testing Harm Minority Workers?
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.
We thank Daron Acemoglu, Joshua Angrist, David Card, John Donohue, Roland Fryer, Caroline Hoxby, Lawrence Katz, Edward Lazear, Michael Greenstone, Sendhil Mullainathan, Roberto Fernandez, numerous seminar participants, and especially Stacey Chen, Peter Schnabl and one incomparable referee for their contributions to the manuscript. Tal Gross provided stellar research assistance and Alan Baumbusch provided invaluable assistance with all data matters. Autor gratefully acknowledges financial support from the National Science Foundation (CAREER SES-0239538) and the Alfred P. Sloan foundation. Any opinions, findings and conclusions are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or Kronos Incorporated, or those of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
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.