Disentangling Sources of Bias: Evidence from Advanced Placement Course Recommendations

Individuals who earn degrees in STEM fields have better labor market outcomes on average. For some, a STEM education can be a pathway out of poverty, however; minoritized populations in the U.S. are less likely to earn degrees in STEM fields. In this project, we seek to understand the underrepresentation of Black students and female-identifying students in advanced STEM courses in high school by investigating whether school counselors exhibit racial or gender bias during the course assignment process. Using an adapted audit study, we ask a nationally-recruited sample of school counselors to evaluate student transcripts that are identical except for randomly varied demographic signifiers. Because understanding the underlying sources of racial and gender bias can help stakeholders and policymakers design better solutions to address the bias, we extend the analysis by attempting to disentangle whether any observed bias can be attributed to taste-based discrimination, statistical discrimination, or implicit bias by including three additional experimental conditions. 

RFP Cycle:
SPRI RFP XIX [January 2023]
United States of America
  • Dania Francis
  • Angela C. M. de Oliveira
  • Carey Dimmitt
  • Full project