“Job Assignment and Promotion Under Statistical Discrimination: Evidence from the Early Careers of Lawyers,” (JOB MARKET PAPER), November 8, 2010.    [PDF]

Minorities continue to be severely underrepresented at the top levels of most occupations despite making dramatic gains in initial access to them. This fact is particularly striking in the legal profession where blacks are well represented in each associate class yet face significantly lower probabilities of making partner. To explain this divergence in the career paths of blacks and whites, I develop a dynamic model of statistical discrimination in which firms diversify their workforce by lowering the hiring standard for blacks. Despite such a diversity goal at hiring, task assignment and promotion decisions are not constrained by this policy. In this institutional setting, the model predicts that although blacks are more likely to be hired compared to observably similar whites, they are more likely to be placed in worse tasks and less likely to be promoted conditional on the same set of observables. However, conditional on task assignment, blacks and whites face similar promotion rates.

I test the model's predictions using new data from the After the JD study -- a unique longitudinal survey tracking the professional lives of more than 4,000 lawyers. Compared to whites of similar credentials, blacks are much more likely to be hired into the best law firms. However, they are assigned to worse tasks and are less likely to be a partner. This black-white difference in promotion rates can be explained by quality differences in task assignments early in the associates' careers even controlling for measures of effort and career preferences. Results from this paper provide a unique explanation for the underrepresentation of minorities at the top of professional ladders by revealing how incompatible strategies in job assignment can reduce the number of minority promotions compared to the case without affirmative action.


“Racial Discrimination in the Labor Market: Theory and Empirics" (with Kevin Lang), revision requested from the Journal of Economic Literature.    [PDF]

We review theories of race discrimination in the labor market. Taste-based models can generate wage and unemployment duration differentials when combined with either random or directed search even when strong prejudice is not widespread, but no existing model explains the unemployment rate differential. Models of statistical discrimination based on differential observability of productivity across races can explain the pattern and magnitudes of wage differentials but do not address employment and unemployment. At their current state of development, models of statistical discrimination based on rational stereotypes have little empirical content. It is plausible that models combining elements of the search models with statistical discrimination could fit the data. We suggest possible avenues to be pursued and comment briefly on the implication of existing theory for public policy.

“Discrimination in Jury Selection: What Do Attorneys Want and Are They Right?” (with Jeremy Smith).  [Available Upon Request]

Voir dire is the process by which a final jury is formed through the selection or, more accurately, deselection – of individuals from an initial panel of potential jurors. Legal scholars have frequently raised concerns that the voir dire process can lead to juries that do not align with the constitutional ideal of an "impartial jury". In this paper, we assess the degree to which such concerns about strong partiality of juries are justified, not merely along racial lines, but across gender and socioeconomics dimensions that have not been studied previously. We ask two related research questions regarding the biases and preferences of attorneys and selected jurors in the trial. First, do defense attorneys and prosecutors hold strongly opposing and/or aligning preferences toward certain types of jurors across socioeconomics and demographic dimensions? Second, if yes, do the opinions and, most importantly, the decisions of the particular jurors support the biases that attorneys might hold about them? In other words, what do attorneys try to achieve in jury selection and are their strategies correct? We analyze these questions using a unique and rich dataset on non-capital felony jury trials held in four major U.S. state trial courts during 2000 to 2001. We find that the defense's level of satisfaction with the jury selection process is positively correlated with a greater proportion of females and blacks in the jury. We also find that the defense and the prosecution hold opposing preferences for the average income levels of their juries with the defense preferring a poorer jury and the prosecution a richer one. Examining whether these attorney preferences are correct, we find mixed results. Although there are some correlations between individual jurors' pre-deliberation biases with race, sex, and income as predicted by attorney preferences, their individual characteristics do not have have any explanatory power in explaining their individual voting within a case. However, we find that the "average" levels of income and proportion of blacks in the jury are significantly correlated with verdicts in the direction predicted by attorneys. We interpret this result as cursory evidence for the importance of deliberation and group makeup in reinforcing or weakening personal prejudices.


Works in Progress

"Negative Stereotypes and Returns to Productivity Signals"

"Diversity Initiatives in Major League Baseball: Impact on Coaching Assignments"