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Poverty Action Lab

MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab conducts poverty research through the use of randomized trials.

The objective is to improve the effectiveness of poverty programs by providing policy makers with clear scientific results that help shape successful policies to combat poverty … [The Lab works] on issues as diverse as boosting girls’ attendance at school, improving the output of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, racial bias in employment in the US, and the role of women political leaders in India.

The Lab’s papers (available as PDFs) cover a wide range of topics. The archive includes “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?,” which made the national news when it was originally published in 2003.

The authors summarize the project in this way:

We perform a field experiment to measure racial discrimination in the labor market. We respond with fictitious resumes to help-wanted ads in Boston and Chicago newspapers. To manipulate perception of race, each resume is randomly assigned either a very African American sounding name or a very White sounding name. The results show significant discrimination against African-American names: White names receive 50 percent more callbacks for interviews … We find little evidence that our results are driven by employers inferring something other than race, such as social class, from the names.

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