hiring practices


Discrimination against women has been alleged in hiring practices for many
occupations, but it is extremely difficult to demonstrate sex-biased hiring. A change in the
way symphony orchestras recruit musicians provides an unusual way to test for sex-biased
hiring. To overcome possible biases in hiring, most orchestras revised their audition policies
in the 1970s and 1980s. A major change involved the use of “blind” auditions with a
“screen” to conceal the identity of the candidate from the jury. Female musicians in the top
five symphony orchestras in the United States were less than 5% of all players in 1970 but are
25% today. We ask whether women were more likely to be advanced and/ or hired with the
use of “blind” auditions. Using data from actual auditions in an individual fixed-effects
framework, we find that the screen increases — by 50% — the probability a woman will be
advanced out of certain preliminary rounds. The screen also enhances, by severalfold, the
likelihood a female contestant will be the winner in the final round. Using data on orchestra
personnel, the switch to “blind” auditions can explain between 30% and 55% of the increase
in the proportion female among new hires and between 25% and 46% of the increase in the
percentage female in the orchestras since 1970.

Year of Publication
Date Published
Publication Language
Citation Key
The American Economic Review, Vol. 90, No. 4, September, 2000
Goldin, C., & Rouse, C. (1997). Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of ’Blind’ Auditions on Female Musicians. Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp01ns064602n (Original work published January 1997)
Working Papers