Friday, November 30, 2012

Johanna Mollerstrom on Quotas and Cooperation

What are some of the complexities associated with the design of affirmative action programs?

Johanna Mollerstrom looks into the question of how different selection procedures may influence the subsequent cooperation among those selected. Her job market paper addresses this question with a simple experiment.  It was initially motivated by questions about Scandinavian affirmative action laws as they are sometimes applied to company boards of directors, with a quota for female participation: Quotas and Cooperation.

"Abstract: Selection by quotas is an important policy measure in the affirmative action tool box. However, quotas may come with unintended side effects, for example by causing uncooperative behavior in the group formed with quota-based selection rules. In the laboratory I measure the impact of a quota on group cooperation, and examine the underlying mechanisms. Two groups are created by randomly assigning participants to either an orange or a purple group. In the unrepresentative quota treatment, orange participants are chosen as members of a selected group by performance on a simple unrelated math task whereas purple participants are chosen based solely on the quota. I compare contributions in a public good game in this unrepresentative quota treatment to behavior in a control treatment, where the orange and purple participants are treated symmetrically and all members of the selected group are chosen based on performance on the unrelated math task. My results show significantly less cooperation in the quota treatment and I furthermore find that this tendency is observed in both the meritocratically chosen orange participants and the quota-advantaged purple participants, and regardless of the color of the matched player. The reduced cooperation remains even when participants are given a rationale for the unrepresentative quota, e.g., by appealing to a fairness argument. The negative effect on cooperation from the unrepresentative quota disappears when selection is done completely randomly instead of on the basis of performance."

Johanna was an elected politician in Sweden before she was twenty, and she is on the market this year; you could hire her.

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