We employ a between-subject design with three treatments.
Affirmative action is represented by a quota rule that, depending on subjects' decisions, may or may not be applied to govern the outcome of a tournament. In the tournament, subjects complete a real-effort task that consists of encoding words by substituting the letters of the alphabet with specific numbers given in a table. Subjects participate in the tournament in groups of six. Without the quota rule, the two subjects who encode most words correctly in five minutes are the winners and receive a monetary prize. The remaining four tournament participants are losers and don't receive any monetary payment. Three of the six tournament participants are assigned to the "Green Group" that is disadvantaged since every correctly encoded word is only counted as 0.9 words, while the other three tournament participants are assigned to the "Blue Group" whose performance is not downgraded. Before the start of the tournament subjects decide whether they want to implement a quota rule that ensures that at least one, namely the highest performing, member of the disadvantaged "Green Group" has to be selected as a winner.
One of six subjects' choices is randomly drawn to be implemented. Depending on random treatment assignment, subjects are either i) first assigned to either the disadvantaged or advantaged group, then decide on the quota rule for their own group and participate in the tournament themselves (PARTIAL treatment), ii) first assigned to either the disadvantaged or advantaged group, then decide on the quota rule for a group of tournament participants but only observe the tournament outcome without participating in the tournament themselves (SPEC-G treatment), or iii) are not assigned to any group, decide on the quota rule for a group of tournament participants and only observe the tournament outcome without participating in the tournament themselves (SPEC treatment). A fourth group of subjects acts as tournament participants, for whom subjects in the SPEC-G and SPEC treatment decide on the implementation of the quota rule, but is not of major interest for our research question. Between-subject comparisons between the disadvantaged and standard group as well as between treatments allow us to disentangle impartial preferences for affirmative action policies from other motives, in particular in-group favoritism and self-interest (relating to own chances of winning).
In all three treatments, subjects answer a questionnaire that elicits the following measures: beliefs about chances of winning (with and without the quota rule), in-group favoritism, risk aversion, altruism, socio-demographics, political orientation, prior experienced discrimination, preferences for efficiency, overconfidence, and perceived fairness of the quota rule. These measures serve to analytically show what drives preferences for implementing affirmative action on a within-subject level.