Unequal Responses to a Standardized Decision-Making Tool

Studies are largely optimistic about the ability of standardized procedures to constrain decision-makers’ biases and produce more equitable results across fields. However, work that embraces standardization as an equalizing force stands in contrast to research on standardization which asserts that standardized procedures are not self-actuating apart from the environments in which they are created.
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Nature and Context

Frontline workers vary in their approach to an actuarial-based tool intended to standardize judgments. In a highly controlled decision-making environment, child welfare workers whose racial and sex characteristics afford them higher status report subverting the tool; conversely, workers in the same position whose ascriptive characteristics yield them lower status in terms of race and sex describe following the rules. In an environment where the same tool is adopted only ceremonially, all workers experience decision-making as unconstrained, regardless of their ascriptive characteristics.

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