Are You My Mentor? A field experiment on gender, ethnicity, and political self starters.


Do public officials respond unequally to requests for career advice? Through a correspondence experiment with 8,189 officials, we examine whether (hypothetical) male and female students who express interest in political careers receive differential responses from public officials. We report three striking findings. First, emails sent by female students were more likely to receive a response than those sent by male students, especially when the official was male. Second, the responses that women received were as likely to be long, thoughtful, and contain an offer of help as those to men. Third, there were no partisan differences in responsiveness to male or female senders. Examining senders with Hispanic last names bolsters the results: Hispanic senders, especially men, were less likely to receive a quality response than non-Hispanic senders. Thus, politicians may condition responsiveness and helpfulness on the ethnicity of constituents, but women who are self-starters in search of advice receive equal treatment.

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