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An Experimental Investigation of Age Discrimination in the English Labor Market


  • Riach, Peter A.

    () (Researcher)

  • Rich, Judy

    () (University of Portsmouth)


Carefully-matched pairs of written job applications were made to test for age discrimination in hiring. A twenty-one year-old and a thirty-nine year-old woman applied for jobs where a “new graduate” was sought; men aged twenty-seven and forty-seven, inquired about employment as waiters; women aged twenty-seven and forty-seven, inquired about employment in retail sales. The rate of net discrimination against the older graduate, and against the older waiters in their London inquiries, correspond to the highest rates ever recorded anywhere, by written tests, for racial discrimination. There was a statistically significant preference for the older applicant in retail sales.

Suggested Citation

  • Riach, Peter A. & Rich, Judy, 2007. "An Experimental Investigation of Age Discrimination in the English Labor Market," IZA Discussion Papers 3029, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3029

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Peter Riach & Judith Rich, 2004. "Fishing for Discrimination," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 62(4), pages 465-486.
    2. Becker, Gary S., 1971. "The Economics of Discrimination," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 2, number 9780226041162, March.
    3. P. A. Riach & J. Rich, 2002. "Field Experiments of Discrimination in the Market Place," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(483), pages 480-518, November.
    4. Oaxaca, Ronald, 1973. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 693-709, October.
    5. Gunderson, Morley, 1989. "Male-Female Wage Differentials and Policy Responses," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 27(1), pages 46-72, March.
    6. 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.
    7. Peter A. Riach & Judith Rich, 2004. "Deceptive Field Experiments of Discrimination: Are they Ethical?," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(3), pages 457-470, August.
    8. Riach, Peter A & Rich, Judith, 1987. "Testing for Sexual Discrimination in the Labour Market," Australian Economic Papers, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(49), pages 165-178, December.
    9. Adams, Scott J., 2004. "Age discrimination legislation and the employment of older workers," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 219-241, April.
    10. Phelps, Edmund S, 1972. "The Statistical Theory of Racism and Sexism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 659-661, September.
    11. William A. Darity & Patrick L. Mason, 1998. "Evidence on Discrimination in Employment: Codes of Color, Codes of Gender," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(2), pages 63-90, Spring.
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    Cited by:

    1. David Neumark, 2016. "Experimental Research on Labor Market Discrimination," NBER Working Papers 22022, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Carlsson, Magnus & Eriksson, Stefan, 2017. "The effect of age and gender on labor demand – evidence from a field experiment," Working Paper Series 2017:8, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    3. David Neumark, 2012. "Detecting Discrimination in Audit and Correspondence Studies," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 47(4), pages 1128-1157.
    4. Riach, Peter A. & Rich, Judy, 2007. "An Experimental Investigation of Age Discrimination in the Spanish Labour Market," IZA Discussion Papers 2654, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Schniter, Eric & Shields, Timothy W., 2014. "Ageism, honesty, and trust," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 19-29.
    6. Chmura, Thorsten & Goerg, Sebastian J. & Weiss, Pia, 2016. "Natural groups and economic characteristics as driving forces of wage discrimination," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 178-200.
    7. Gustafsson, Björn Anders & Mac Innes, Hanna & Österberg, Torun, 2016. "Age at Immigration Matters for Labor Market Integration: The Swedish Example," IZA Discussion Papers 10423, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Aurelian SOFICĂ, 2012. "The social network of actors influencing age discrimination in the human resources recruiting process," Eastern Journal of European Studies, Centre for European Studies, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, vol. 3, pages 169-188, June.
    9. Baert, Stijn, 2017. "Hiring Discrimination: An Overview of (Almost) All Correspondence Experiments Since 2005," IZA Discussion Papers 10738, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Baert, Stijn & Norga, Jennifer & Thuy, Yannick & Van Hecke, Marieke, 2016. "Getting grey hairs in the labour market. An alternative experiment on age discrimination," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 86-101.
    11. Drydakis, Nick & MacDonald, Peter & Bozani, Vasiliki & Chiotis, Vangelis, 2017. "Inclusive Recruitment? Hiring Discrimination against Older Workers," IZA Discussion Papers 10957, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item


    discrimination; employment; hiring; age; field experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments

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