Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 12 No. 2 (Spring 1998)


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Detecting Discrimination

Article Citation

Heckman, James J. 1998. "Detecting Discrimination." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 12(2): 101-116.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.12.2.101


The evidence on discrimination produced from the audit method is examined. Audits survey the average firm and not the marginal firm which determines the level of market discrimination. Taken on its own terms, there is little evidence of labor market discrimination from audit methods. The validity of audit methods is critically dependent on unverified assumptions about equality across race/gender groups of the distributions of unobserved (by audit designers) productivity components acted on by firms and about the way labor markets work. Audits can find discrimination when none exists and can disguise it when it does.

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Heckman, James J. (U Chicago and American Bar Foundation)

JEL Classifications

J71: Labor Discrimination
J15: Economics of Minorities and Races; Non-labor Discrimination


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