Selection under Uncertainty: Affirmative Action at Shortlisting Stage

Mind 125 (498):421-437 (2016)
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Choice often proceeds in two stages: We construct a shortlist on the basis of limited and uncertain information about the options and then reduce this uncertainty by examining the shortlist in greater detail. The goal is to do well when making a final choice from the option set. I argue that we cannot realise this goal by constructing a ranking over the options at shortlisting stage which determines of each option whether it is more or less worthy of being included in a shortlist. This is relevant to the 2010 UK Equality Act. The Act requires that shortlists be constructed on grounds of candidate rankings and affirmative action is only permissible for equally qualified candidates. This is misguided: Shortlisting candidates with lower expected qualifications but higher variance may raise the chance of finding an exceptionally strong candidate. If it does, then shortlisting such candidates would make eminent business sense and there is nothing unfair about it. This observation opens up room for including more underrepresented candidates with protected characteristics, as they are more likely to display greater variance in the selector’s credence functions at shortlisting stage.
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Ethical Consistency.Williams, B. A. O. & Atkinson, W. F.

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