Explicitly targeting disadvantaged groups prevents their take-up of an educational program

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Abstract: This paper studies how take-up rates for an educational program are impacted if individuals from disadvantaged groups are explicitly told they are pre-selected because of their group identity. Organizations tend to visibilize a person’s group identity as a selection criteria to highlight their commitment to equity. I argue this strategy can backfire as candidates may be concerned with how they are perceived if accepting an opportunity because of their demographics. I test this in a field experiment in which 4,831 university students from various disadvantaged groups were invited to take up an educational program. Invitations informed some students that they were chosen because of their group identities, while this was not revealed to others. If identity targeting was made explicit, program take-up significantly decreased compared to the no information condition. This effect was persistent across different social groups. The evidence suggests targeting can be done without harming underrepresented groups by avoiding identity disclosure as a selection criterion.

Keywords: Diversity, Inclusion, Information disclosure, Minority, Stereotype