Incentives to Identify: Racial Identity in the Age of Affirmative Action

57 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2015

See all articles by Francisca Antman

Francisca Antman

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Economics

Brian Duncan

University of Colorado at Denver

Abstract

It is almost universally assumed that race is an exogenously given trait that is not subject to change. But as race is most often self-reported by individuals who must weigh the costs and benefits of associating with minority groups, we ask whether racial self-identification responds to economic incentives. To address this question, we link racial self-identification with changes in state-level affirmative action policies in higher education, contracting, and employment. Consistent with supporting evidence showing that individuals from underrepresented minority groups face an incentive to identify under affirmative action, we find that once affirmative action is outlawed, they are less likely to identify with their minority group. In contrast, we find that individuals from overrepresented minority groups, who face a disincentive to identify under affirmative action, are more likely to identify with their minority group once affirmative action is banned. To our knowledge, this is the first study to document a causal relationship between racial self-identification and economic incentives in the United States. As such, it has broad implications for understanding the impact of affirmative action policies, estimating broader trends in racial disparities, and the emerging literature on the construction of race and individual identity.

Keywords: race, affirmative action, identity

JEL Classification: J15, I28, Z13

Suggested Citation

Antman, Francisca and Duncan, Brian, Incentives to Identify: Racial Identity in the Age of Affirmative Action. IZA Discussion Paper No. 8753, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2547854

Francisca Antman (Contact Author)

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Economics ( email )

Campus Box 256
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

Brian Duncan

University of Colorado at Denver ( email )

Box 173364
1250 14th Street
Denver, CO 80217
United States

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