“Soft” Affirmative Action and Minority Recruitment

Daniel Fershtman, Alessandro Pavan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We study search, evaluation, and selection of candidates of unknown quality for a position. We examine the effects of “soft” affirmative action policies increasing the relative percentage of minority candidates in the candidate pool. We show that, while meant to encourage minority hiring, such policies may backfire if the evaluation of minority candidates is noisier than that of nonminorities. This may occur even if minorities are at least as qualified and as valuable as nonminorities. The results provide a possible explanation for why certain soft affirmative action policies have proved counterproductive, even in the absence of (implicit) bias. (JEL J15, J23, J24, M51)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalAmerican Economic Review: Insights
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


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