New research provides evidence of “clear, consistent, and large discrimination” against men in female-dominated occupations in Sweden. The study indicates that women are more likely to receive a response to entry-level job applications than men are.
The findings have been published in the journal PLOS One.
Study author Mark Granberg, a PhD candidate in economics at Linköping University, told PsyPost that there were several reasons that he and his colleagues were interested in examining hiring discrimination.
“Perhaps the first motivation when looking at discrimination in the labor market is that it is theoretically inefficient, a profit maximizing firm should not discriminate between workers of equal productivity based on immutable characteristics, as it would run counter to their goals,” he explained.
“So the consistent empirical observation that employers do discriminate in hiring bears constant exploration to map out the details of those decisions. Another motivation was of course that gender discrimination is a hotly debated topic and that we happened to have data from previous experiments that we could use to test for gender discrimination in hiring using a well-established method.”
The researchers examined data from three previous studies, which had systematically sent out fictitious applications to real employers with job openings in an effort to measure hiring discrimination, a scientific technique known as correspondence testing. For every application, the researchers noted whether the fictitious applicant received a response and, if so, what the response was.
There were 3,200 fictitious job applications sent to 15 different occupations, including four male-dominated professions — vehicle mechanic, delivery/truck driver, IT developer, and warehouse worker — and six female-dominated professions — customer service, cleaner, childcare, accounting clerk, preschool teacher, and enrolled nurse. The remaining occupations included B2B sales, telemarketing, chef, waitstaff, and store clerk.
Granberg and his colleagues found that women had higher positive employer response rates than men on average, an effect that was primarily driven by female-dominated occupations. There was no evidence of discrimination against women in male-dominated professions or in mixed-gender professions, but the researchers did find evidence of discrimination against men in female-dominated professions.
“When using all data, the p-value for the negative marginal effect for men would have been considered significant in high energy physics (p = .000000026 or, to use physicist notation, 5.57σ),” the researchers wrote in their study. “Thus, using the combined sample, we estimated that female applicants had a 52.17 percent relative advantage in positive employer response rates over males in occupations where they were the predominant gender.”
The findings indicate “that, at least in Sweden and the occupations we study, hiring discrimination in entry level jobs is primarily a problem for men in female-dominated occupations,” Granberg told PsyPost.
The researchers only examined whether the job applications received a response from employers. It is possible, of course, that women face other types of workplace discrimination.
“This study only captures discrimination at the initial stages of the hiring process at entry level jobs in Sweden in the occupations which we study,” Granberg noted. “It is of course possible that there is discrimination at later stages such as actual job offers (as opposed to interview offers), in wage negotiations, in the work place, and/or in promotions. However, as there are studies from other countries with similar findings, we would say it is reasonable to generalize a bit in the country dimension.”
The study, “Gender discrimination in hiring: An experimental reexamination of the Swedish case“, was authored by Ali Ahmed, Mark Granberg, and Shantanu Khanna.