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Bias in the Legal Profession: Self-Assessed versus Statistical Measures of Discrimination

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Legal cases are won or lost on the basis of statistical discrimination measures, but workers’ perceptions of discriminatory behavior are important for understanding labor supply decisions. Workers who believe that they have been discriminated against are more likely to leave their employers, and workers’ perceptions of discrimination likely drive formal complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Yet the relationship between statistical and self-assessed measures of discrimination is far from obvious. We expand on the previous literature by using data from the After the J.D. study to compare standard Blinder-Oaxaca measures of earnings discrimination to self-reported measures of client discrimination, other work-related discrimination, and harassment. Our results indicate that conventional measures of earnings discrimination are not closely linked to the racial and gender bias that new lawyers believe they have experienced on the job. Moreover, statistical earnings discrimination does not explain the disparity in self-assessed bias across gender and racial groups.

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