Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Stimulus and Discrimination

As I was busy embarrassing myself on KGW's "Live @ 7" (yes the ampersand is part of the title) last night, the host, Stephanie Stricklen relayed a interesting question from a viewer who asked, in essence, "if infrastructure construction is traditionally male-dominated (think road crews), will federal fiscal stimulus that concentrates on such projects be gender biased?"

I tried my best to provide a quick answer to the question (video is above - but I am going by memory because I can't stand to watch), but thought I would take this opportunity to expound here.   There are two main reasons for the observation that construction tends to be male dominated: it could be because of discrimination, or it could be the result of self-selection.  

Discrimination means that employers hire men ahead of more-abled women because they simply have a preference for men and thus more men are in construction than women.  Self-selection means that the employers are picking the best workers among the people who apply, but as most applicants are men, most of the hires are men as well.  I don't claim to know which it is (though I suspect both).  Also there is probably some endogeneity involved, if there is discrimination, discouraged women will not bother to apply so it may look like self-selection when it is not.  

If there is discrimination in construction then the viewer is correct, fiscal stimulus dollars will end up going to firms that discriminate and there could be even more and the growth in employment will be gender-biased.   

If it is self-selection, however, then there maybe a larger pool of women applicants as other opportunities that they might prefer are not available (if the only hiring going on is in construction) then we should see more women in construction.  [With an important caveat: as there will likely be more men than women with experience and specific skills in construction, we could still see a disproportionate number of men being hired even without discrimination]  

Now you try saying all of that in 30 seconds.

And, by the way, in an act of shameless self-promotion, if you are interested in discrimination, see this paper that I wrote with a colleague where we use a unique data set and novel statistical test to reveal racial discrimination in the NFL. 

1 comment:

Barb said...

I think you mean asperand.