Discussion paper

DP15075 "Soft" Affirmative Action and Minority Recruitment

We study search, evaluation, and selection of candidates of unknown quality for a position. We examine the effects of “soft” affirmative action policies increasing the relative percentage of minority candidates in the candidate pool. We show that, while meant to encourage minority hiring, such policies may backfire if the evaluation of minority candidates is noisier than that of non-minorities. This may occur even if minorities are at least as qualified and as valuable as non-minorities. The results provide a possible explanation for why certain soft affirmative action policies have proved counterproductive, even in the absence of (implicit) bias.


Fershtman, D and A Pavan (2020), ‘DP15075 "Soft" Affirmative Action and Minority Recruitment‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 15075. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp15075