Reducing Minority Discrimination at the Front Line—Combined Survey and Field Experimental Evidence

Simon Calmar Andersen, Thorbjørn Sejr Guul

04.03.2019 | Lone Amdi Boisen

Despite laws of universalistic treatment, bureaucrats have been shown to discriminate against minorities. A crucial question for public administration is how bureaucracies can be organized in ways that minimize illegitimate discrimination. Especially, since theories suggest that prejudices happen unintentionally and particularly under high workload, bureaucrats’ working conditions may be important. Four randomized experiments support the notion that bureaucrats discriminate as a way of coping with high workload. Most notably, a field experiment randomly assigned teachers to reduced workloads by giving them resources to have more time with the same group of students. In a subsequent survey experiment—using a fictitious future scenario unrelated to the resources provided in the field experiment—discrimination was minimized in the field treatment group, but persisted in the control group. The results thereby support the notion that even though discrimination among bureaucrats does not (only) occur in a reflective manner it can be reduced by altering the way bureaucrats’ work is organized.

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