Economics Working Papers

Publication Date

2-23-2020

Number

20004

Abstract

We study possible worker-to-employer discrimination manifested via social preferences in an online labor market. Specifically, we ask, do workers exhibit positive social preferences for an out-race employer relative to an otherwise-identical, own-race one? We run a well-powered, model-based experiment wherein we recruit 6,000 workers from Amazon’s M-Turk platform for a real-effort task and randomly (and unobtrusively) reveal to them the racial identity of their non-fictitious employer. Strikingly, we find strong evidence of race-based altruism – white workers, even when they do not benefit personally, work relatively harder to generate more income for black employers. Self-declared white Republicans and Independents exhibit significantly more altruism relative to Democrats. Notably, the altruism does not seem to be driven by race-specific beliefs about the income status of the employers. Our results suggest the possibility that pro-social behavior of whites toward blacks, atypical in traditional labor markets, may emerge in the gig economy where associative (dis)taste is naturally muted due to limited social contact.

JEL Classification

C93, D91, J71

Version History

Original release date: February 23, 2020

Departments

Department of Economics, Iowa State University

File Format

application/pdf

Length

73 pages

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