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Essays on the Behavioral Economics of Discrimination and Stereotypes
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While there are people who gain success in life without many complications, there are many others those who struggle and must overcome challenges in order to succeed. In these three chapters, I use experimental methods to study how women and men, black people, and unemployed individuals deal with issues like stereotypes and discrimination that can create barriers between them and their goals. In the first chapter, I used an online experiment to investigate whether women and men are able to estimate the amount of discrimination that existed when they applied for a stereotypically male task. The findings suggest that both women and men anticipated that hiring managers would be biased against women; however, men, in particular, overestimated how biased the managers would be. In the second chapter, we examined whether the test scores of black students attending a historically black college are affected by a subtle reminder of the stereotype that black people are not as intelligent as white people. We found that black students who were exposed to this subtle reminder before taking a mock Graduate Record Examination (GRE) performed just as well as black students who were not exposed to the reminder. This result differs from prior study findings, which primarily used black students at predominantly white institutions. In the third chapter, I used a laboratory experiment to study the resilience of unemployed individuals who had either been fired or randomly laid off. Individuals in the study performed a real effort task for four rounds, and I compared how well they performed on the task before and after they experienced one round without pay. The results show that low-performing individuals’ performance is not significantly affected by job loss or the cause of unemployment (low performance or chance). In summary, these three studies prove that some people are influenced by the barriers they face (e.g., stereotypes and perceived discrimination), but that does not necessarily mean that these barriers will negatively affect their performance or outcomes.
Alston, Mackenzie Jessica (2019). Essays on the Behavioral Economics of Discrimination and Stereotypes. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from