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Is it sex or personality? The impact of sex-stereotypes on discrimination in applicant selection

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Abstract

This paper investigates whether differential treatment of men and women in the labor market is due to unobservable differences in productivity or if it is motivated by a taste for discrimination. While studies on sex-discrimination typically control for human capital (formal education, job-experience etc.), there is usually no information on personality traits available. We argue that personality might affect productivity just as human capital: For many traditionally male occupations (e.g. managers) stereotypically masculine characteristics - like being ambitious, competitive, dominant - seem to be required. On the other hand, stereotypically feminine characteristics - like being gentle, cheerful, friendly - are particularly acknowledged in traditionally female occupations (e.g. nurses). The central question of this paper is whether women are treated differently because "they are different" (they posses more "feminine" and less "masculine" personality traits on the average) or because they are discriminated against. To gather the necessary data a field experiment is conducted. Job applications of candidates, who are equivalent in their human capital but differ in sex and personality are sent out in response to various job advertisements. We found minor indicators that signaling a masculine personality slightly reduces unfavorable treatment of women in typically male professions; nevertheless discrimination in hiring prevails even after controlling for personality characteristics.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria in its series Economics working papers with number 2000-11.

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Date of creation: May 2000
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Handle: RePEc:jku:econwp:2000_11

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Keywords: sex-discrimination; matching process; experimental economics; economic psychology;

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  1. Hamermesh, Daniel S & Biddle, Jeff E, 1994. "Beauty and the Labor Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1174-94, December.
  2. Neumark, David, 1996. "Sex Discrimination in Restaurant Hiring: An Audit Study," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(3), pages 915-41, August.
  3. Joseph G. Altonji & Rebecca M. Blank, . "Race and Gender in the Labor Market," IPR working papers 98-18, Institute for Policy Resarch at Northwestern University.
  4. Alan S. Blinder, 1973. "Wage Discrimination: Reduced Form and Structural Estimates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 8(4), pages 436-455.
  5. Jerry M. Newman, 1978. "Discrimination in recruitment: An empirical analysis," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 32(1), pages 15-23, October.
  6. James J. Heckman, 1998. "Detecting Discrimination," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(2), pages 101-116, Spring.
  7. Phelps, Edmund S, 1972. "The Statistical Theory of Racism and Sexism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 659-61, September.
  8. Susan Averett & Sanders Korenman, 1993. "The Economic Reality of the Beauty Myth," NBER Working Papers 4521, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Michael Firth, 1981. "Racial discrimination in the British labor market," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 34(2), pages 265-272, January.
  10. Riach, Peter A & Rich, Judith, 1991. "Testing for Racial Discrimination in the Labour Market," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(3), pages 239-56, September.
  11. Peter A. Riach & Judith Rich, 1995. "An Investigation of Gender Discrimination in Labor Hiring," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 21(3), pages 343-356, Summer.
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