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An Empirical Justification for the Use of Racially Distinctive Names to Signal Race in Experiments

  • Daniel M. Butler (a1) and Jonathan Homola (a1)
Abstract

Researchers studying discrimination and bias frequently conduct experiments that use racially distinctive names to signal race. The ability of these experiments to speak to racial discrimination depends on the excludability assumption that subjects’ responses to these names are driven by their reaction to the individual’s putative race and not some other factor. We use results from an audit study with a large number of aliases and data from detailed public records to empirically test the excludability assumption undergirding the use of racially distinctive names. The detailed public records allow us to measure the signals about socioeconomic status and political resources that each name used in the study possibly could send. We then reanalyze the audit study to see whether these signals predict legislators’ likelihood of responding. We find no evidence that politicians respond to this other information, thus providing empirical support for the excludability assumption.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
* Email: daniel.butler@wustl.edu
Footnotes
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Authors’ note: Dan Butler thanks the Weidenbaum Center at Washington University in St. Louis for financial support. The authors also thank Tim Teehan and Paul Graham at L2 for their help with the voter data. Finally, the authors thank Bernard Fraga, Hans Hassell, Hakeem Jefferson, Michelle Torres, Jens Hainmueller, and the anonymous reviewers for comments on this paper. The replication data (Butler and Homola 2016) is available on the PA Dataverse at: https://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataset.xhtml?persistentId=doi:10.7910/DVN/LUGBL1.
Contributing Editor: Jens Hainmueller
Footnotes
References
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Political Analysis
  • ISSN: 1047-1987
  • EISSN: 1476-4989
  • URL: /core/journals/political-analysis
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