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Why Is Unemployment Duration a Sorting Criterion in Hiring?

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  • Van Belle, Eva

    () (Ghent University)

  • Caers, Ralf

    () (KU Leuven)

  • De Couck, Marijke

    (Free University of Brussels)

  • Di Stasio, Valentina

    () (Utrecht University)

  • Baert, Stijn

    () (Ghent University)

Abstract

Recent evidence from large-scale field experiments has shown that employers use job candidates' unemployment duration as a sorting criterion. In the present study, we investigate the mechanisms underlying this pattern. To this end, we conduct a lab experiment in which participants make hiring decisions concerning fictitious job candidates with diverging unemployment durations. In addition, these participants rate the job candidates on statements central to four theoretical mechanisms often related to the scarring effect of unemployment: general signalling theory, (perceived) skill loss, queuing theory, and rational herding. We use the resulting data to estimate a multiple mediation model, in which the effect of the duration of unemployment on hiring intentions is mediated by the four theories. The lower hiring chances of the long-term unemployed turn out to be dominantly driven by the perception of longer unemployment spells as a signal of lower motivation. Recent evidence from large-scale field experiments has shown that employers use job candidates' unemployment duration as a sorting criterion. In the present study, we investigate the mechanisms underlying this pattern. To this end, we conduct a lab experiment in which participants make hiring decisions concerning fictitious job candidates with diverging unemployment durations. In addition, these participants rate the job candidates on statements central to four theoretical mechanisms often related to the scarring effect of unemployment: general signalling theory, (perceived) skill loss, queuing theory, and rational herding. We use the resulting data to estimate a multiple mediation model, in which the effect of the duration of unemployment on hiring intentions is mediated by the four theories. The lower hiring chances of the long-term unemployed turn out to be dominantly driven by the perception of longer unemployment spells as a signal of lower motivation.

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  • Van Belle, Eva & Caers, Ralf & De Couck, Marijke & Di Stasio, Valentina & Baert, Stijn, 2017. "Why Is Unemployment Duration a Sorting Criterion in Hiring?," IZA Discussion Papers 10876, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10876
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    Cited by:

    1. Van Belle, Eva & Caers, Ralf & De Couck, Marijke & Di Stasio, Valentina & Baert, Stijn, 2017. "Why Is Unemployment Duration a Sorting Criterion in Hiring?," IZA Discussion Papers 10876, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Van Belle, Eva & Caers, Ralf & De Couck, Marijke & Di Stasio, Valentina & Baert, Stijn, 2018. "The Signal of Applying for a Job Under a Vacancy Referral Scheme," GLO Discussion Paper Series 173, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    3. Maurer-Fazio, Margaret & Wang, Sili, 2018. "Does Marital Status Affect How Firms Interpret Job Applicants' Un/Employment Histories?," IZA Discussion Papers 11363, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    unemployment scarring; signalling theory; queuing theory; rational herding;

    JEL classification:

    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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