Media Briefings

RACIAL DISCRIMINATION IN HIRING DECISIONS: Evidence from Fantasy Football

  • Published Date: April 2014

New research uses the ‘virtual’ labour market of Fantasy Football to assess the prevalence of racial discrimination in hiring decisions. The study by Alex Bryson and Arnaud Chevalier, to be presented at the Royal Economic Society’s 2014 annual conference, finds that the 2.8 million people who play Fantasy Football each week show no discriminatory behaviour in choosing their team at the beginning of the season. What’s more, although there is racial discrimination in transfers over the course of the season, the size of the effects is not large.

 

Research on employers’ hiring discrimination is limited by the unlawfulness of such activity. Research therefore focuses on the intention to hire. Typically, fake identical curriculum vitas differing only by the implied race of the applicant are sent to recruiting employers. Differences in call-back rates imply discrimination in the hiring process. But these studies can only observe variation in call-back rates and not in hiring decisions.

 

The new research looks at actual hiring decisions in a virtual labour market – the Fantasy Football League (FFL) – which is played by 2.8 million individuals FFL each week, behaving just like employers in hiring and transferring football players in the hope of winning the league. These employers are ‘free’ to discriminate because there is no legal impediment to them doing so.

 

Despite this, the authors find that FFL employers show no discriminatory behaviour in choosing their team at the beginning of the season and although there is racial discrimination in transfers over the course of the season, the size of the effects is not large. This is true, for the three seasons of FFL that they study (2009/10 to 2011/12) and in any week in the season.

 

The study has a number of advantages over previous studies investigating employer racial discrimination in hiring:

 

·          First, hiring decisions are observed.

 

·          Second, employers have full information on the productivity of each player over time, making it possible to discount statistical discrimination as a possible source of discriminatory behaviour.

 

·          Third, co-worker discrimination can be discounted as an issue since in FFL, co-workers do not interact.

 

·          Fourth, employers make ‘private decisions’ without regard to paying customers (fans), thus allowing the authors to discount customer discrimination as a potential source of discriminatory behaviour.

 

·          Fifth, all firms are identical: they operate in the same industry and have identical features in terms of budgets and job slots to fill, so the authors can discount a variety of potentially confounding factors in their analyses.

 

Despite anti-discrimination legislation, numerous studies based on ‘fake’ job applications indicate employers do discriminate on grounds of race and the size of these effects appears substantial. Bryson and Chevalier, on the other hand, find small effects.

 

One reason for the difference could be that most studies are picking up statistical discrimination by employers, whereby they make decisions based on imperfect information, whereas Bryson and Chevalier can discount this because FFL employers possess perfect information on the productivity and race of all potential recruits in the labour market.

 

ENDS

 

 

Notes for editors:

‘What Happens When Employers are Free to Discriminate? Evidence from the English Barclays Premier Fantasy Football League’ by Alex Bryson (National Institute of Economic and Social Research, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE) and Arnaud Chevalier (Royal Holloway, University of London, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE and IZA)

 

For further information, contact:

Dr Arnaud Chevalier, Royal Holloway, University of London: Arnaud.chevalier@rhul.ac.uk

Romesh Vaitilingam: romesh@vaitilingam.com, +44 7768 661095