The Use of Field Experiments for Studies of Employment Discrimination: Contributions, Critiques, and Directions for the Future

Pager, Devah
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

Have we conquered the problems of racial discrimination? Or have acts of discrimination become too subtle and covert for detection? This discussion serves to situate current debates about discrimination within the context of available measurement techniques. In this article, the author (1) considers the arguments from recent debates over the contemporary relevance of labor market discrimination; (2) provides a detailed introduction to experimental field methods for studying discrimination (also called audit studies), including an overview of the findings of recent audit studies of employment; (3) addresses the primary critiques of the audit methodology and the potential threats to the validity of studies of this kind; and (4) considers how we might reconcile evidence from field experiments with those from analyses of large-scale survey data, each of which points to markedly different conclusions. Only by gathering rigorous empirical evidence can we begin to understand the nature of race and racial discrimination in labor markets today.