The cost of affirmative action

We evaluate the effect of introducing a gender quota in an environment where high-performing women fail to enter competitions they can win. We show that guaranteeing women equal representation among winners increases their entry. The response exceeds that predicted by the change in probability of winning and is in part driven by women being more willing to compete against other women. The consequences are substantial as the boost in supply essentially eliminates the anticipated costs of the policy..

Prior to affirmative action, women, including high-performing women, fail to enter the competition. Despite there being no discrimination, very few women win the tournaments…Although some high- performing men drop out of the competition, many women come in, and the overall number of high- performing participants in the entry pool is barely affected.

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