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CEP discussion paper

Pride and Prejudice: Using Ethnic-Sounding Names and Inter-Ethnic Marriages to Identify Labor Market Discrimination


We use non-random sorting into interethnic marriage and salient differences between Sephardic and Ashkenazi surnames to evaluate the causal impact of Sephardic affiliation on wages. Using the 1995 Israeli Census, we estimate the effect of a Sephardic affiliation on wages. We first compare the wages of Israeli Jewish males born to Sephardic fathers and Ashkenazi mothers (SA), who are more likely to carry a Sephardic surname, with the wages of Israeli Jewish males born to Ashkenazi fathers and Sephardic mothers (AS). We find that SA workers earn significantly less than their AS counterparts. We then exploit the custom of women to adopt their husbands. surnames to disentangle actual ethnicity from the ethnicity perceived by the market. Consistent with our interpretation of the results for males, we find that it is father-in-law’s ethnicity - rather than father’s ethnicity - that shapes female wage rates, yet only for daughters of interethnic couples and others with mild skin tone who have equal chances to be perceived either as an Ashkenazi or as a Sephardic group member.


Dror Brenner and Yona Rubinstein

12 December 2012     Paper Number CEPDP1180

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This CEP discussion paper is published under the centre's Labour markets programme.