Caseload, time-pressure and discrimination Are school principals who have less time for e-mail correspondence more likely to discriminate in their e-mail replies?

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Jonas Larsson Taghizadeh

Keywords

discrimination, caseload, coping strategies, time-pressure, field experiment

Abstract

Street-level bureaucrats are assumed to use discriminatory practices against clients to handle high workloads and psychological exhaustion. However, empirical research on the relationships between caseloads, time pressure and discrimination is limited. This article is one of the first to study this topic using a large correspondence experiment that captures actual real-life discriminatory behaviour. Swedish school principals were randomly contacted via email by parents with Arabic- or Swedish-sounding names and with low-SES and high-SES professions who were interested in placing their children at the school. The principals’ actual caseloads and perceived time pressure were captured using both registry and survey data. The results reveal few robust effects; however, we see a slight tendency in the results where principals who have more time for e-mail correspondence may be less likely to discriminate low-SES parents in the e-mail replies.