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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Doris Weichselbaumer, 2000. "Is it sex or personality? The impact of sex-stereotypes on discrimination in applicant selection," Economics working papers 2000-11, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
  • Handle: RePEc:jku:econwp:2000_11
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    sex-discrimination; matching process; experimental economics; economic psychology;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J70 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - General
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J42 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Monopsony; Segmented Labor Markets

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