Imas’s paper examines the source of discrimination against women in the workplace.
- April 05, 2021
Alex Imas, assistant professor of behavioral science and economics, is the recipient of the 2020 Exeter Prize, along with his coauthors J. Aislinn Borhren of the University of Pennsylvania and Michael Rosenberg of automotive-shopping website CarGurus. Their research paper is titled “The Dynamics of Discrimination: Theory and Evidence.”
The paper, which appeared as the lead article in the American Economic Review, examines how biased evaluations can lead to discrimination against women in the workplace.
“This paper has opened up a whole new research agenda for me,” Imas said.
Imas and his co-authors began by creating numerous accounts on a large online platform for professionals in mathematics and randomly assigning them male and female usernames. They then posted content to the accounts and evaluated the responses from other users.
What they found is that content associated with the female usernames was initially undervalued even though it was basically identical in substance and tone to the accounts under the male usernames.
“Booth is known for its intellectual rigor and the curiosity of its students and faculty. The big value of being at a school like Booth is the opportunity to grow as a scientist.”
They also found that this discrimination could be overcome over time, but only through extraordinary efforts. In perhaps a somewhat surprising twist, the women who persisted eventually were ranked higher than the men, the researchers discovered.
“What we found,” said Imas, “is that women can overcome initial discrimination against them, but only by being better than the average man.”
The Exeter Prize is awarded annually by the University of Exeter Business School for the best paper published in the previous year in the fields of experimental economics, decision theory, and behavioral economics.
This is the second consecutive year that the prize has been won by a Booth faculty member. Last year’s award went to Samuel Hartzmark, associate professor of finance and the Fujimori/Mou Faculty Scholar, and Kelly Shue of Yale University for their paper, “A Tough Act to Follow: Contrast Effects in Financial Markets.”
Imas first joined Booth as a visiting professor during the 2017–18 school year. He returned in 2020 after several years at Carnegie Mellon, where he was assistant professor of behavioral economics. “Booth is known for its intellectual rigor and the curiosity of its students and faculty,” he said. “The big value of being at a school like Booth is the opportunity to grow as a scientist.”
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