The Heterogeneous Effect of Affirmative Action on Performance

58 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2018 Last revised: 10 Sep 2021

See all articles by Anat Bracha

Anat Bracha

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Alma Cohen

Harvard Law School; Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Lynn Conell-Price

Carnegie Mellon University

Date Written: December 2018

Abstract

This paper experimentally investigates the effect of gender-based affirmative action (AA) on performance in the lab, focusing on a tournament environment. The tournament is based on GRE math questions commonly used in graduate school admission, and at which women are known to perform worse on average than men. We find heterogeneous effect of AA on female participants: AA lowers the performance of high-ability women and increases the performance of low-ability women. Our results are consistent with two possible mechanisms—one is that AA changes incentives differentially for low- and high-ability women, and the second is that AA triggers stereotype threat.

Suggested Citation

Bracha, Anat and Cohen, Alma and Conell-Price, Lynn, The Heterogeneous Effect of Affirmative Action on Performance (December 2018). NBER Working Paper No. w25322, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3298693

Anat Bracha (Contact Author)

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston ( email )

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Alma Cohen

Harvard Law School ( email )

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Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Lynn Conell-Price

Carnegie Mellon University

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