Modupe Akinola

Heterogeneity in Discrimination? A Field Experiment

Coauthor(s): Katherine Milkman, Dolly Chugh.


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We provide evidence from the field that levels of discrimination are heterogeneous across contexts in which we might expect to observe bias. We explore how discrimination varies in its extent and source through an audit study including over 6,500 professors at top U.S. universities drawn from 89 disciplines and 258 institutions. Faculty in our field experiment received meeting requests from fictional prospective doctoral students who were randomly assigned identity-signaling names (Caucasian, Black, Hispanic, Indian, Chinese; male, female). Faculty response rates indicate that discrimination against women and minorities is both prevalent and unevenly distributed in academia. Discrimination varies meaningfully by discipline and is more extreme in higher paying disciplines and at private institutions. These findings raise important questions for future research about how and why pay and institutional characteristics may relate to the manifestation of bias. They also suggest that past audit studies may have underestimated the prevalence of discrimination in the United States. Finally, our documentation of heterogeneity in discrimination suggests where targeted efforts to reduce discrimination in academia are most needed and highlights that similar research may help identify areas in other industries where efforts to reduce bias should focus.

Source: Working Paper
Exact Citation:
Milkman, Katherine, Modupe Akinola, and Dolly Chugh. "Heterogeneity in Discrimination? A Field Experiment." Working Paper, Columbia University, 2012.
Date: 2012