key topic

Workplace discrimination

Discrimination is a complex, multi-factor phenomenon. Evidence shows widespread discrimination on various grounds, including ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or beliefs, disability, being over 55 years old, or being a woman. It is not only unfair and potentially costly to the individuals who experience it, but also results in large economic costs for society.

Labor market discrimination based on physical attributes, for example, is widespread. Obese people are less likely to be employed and, when employed, are likely to earn lower wages; physically attractive people, on the other hand, earn more than those considered to be less attractive; and looks can even be pivotal in national elections. But, identifying discriminatory practices in the labor market is not an easy task. Anti-discrimination policies and blind recruitment methods can help in the fight to make workplaces more equal, but there is still a long way to go.

  • Correspondence testing studies Updated

    What is there to learn about discrimination in hiring?

    Dan-Olof Rooth, January 2021
    Anti-discrimination policies play an important role in public discussions. However, identifying discriminatory practices in the labor market is not an easy task. Correspondence testing provides a credible way to reveal discrimination in hiring and provide hard facts for policies, and it has provided evidence of discrimination in hiring across almost all continents except Africa. The method involves sending matched pairs of identical job applications to employers posting jobs—the only difference being a characteristic that signals membership to a group.
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  • Equal pay legislation and the gender wage gap Updated

    Despite major efforts at equal pay legislation, gender pay inequality still exists—how can this be put right?

    Solomon W. Polachek, October 2019
    Despite equal pay legislation dating back 50 years, American women still earn 18% less than their male counterparts. In the UK, with its Equal Pay Act of 1970, and France, which legislated in 1972, the gap is 17% and 10% respectively, and in Australia it remains around 14%. Interestingly, the gender pay gap is relatively small for the young but increases as men and women grow older. Similarly, it is large when comparing married men and women, but smaller for singles. Just what can explain these wage patterns? And what can governments do to speed up wage convergence to close the gender pay gap? Clearly, the gender pay gap continues to be an important policy issue.
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  • Obesity and labor market outcomes Updated

    The hidden private costs of obesity: lower earnings and a lower probability of employment

    Susan L. Averett, August 2019
    Rising obesity is a pressing global public health problem responsible for rising health care costs and in some countries one of the leading causes of preventable deaths. There is substantial evidence that obese people are less likely to be employed and, when employed, earn lower wages. There is some evidence that the lower earnings are a result of discriminatory hiring and sorting into jobs with less customer contact. Understanding whether obesity is associated with adverse labor market outcomes and ascertaining the source of these outcomes are essential for designing effective public policy.
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  • Sexual orientation and labor market outcomes Updated

    Sexual orientation seems to affect job access and satisfaction, earning prospects, and interaction with colleagues

    Nick Drydakis, July 2019
    Studies from countries with laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation suggest that gay and lesbian employees report more incidents of harassment and are more likely to report experiencing unfair treatment in the labor market than are heterosexual employees. Both gay men and lesbians tend to be less satisfied with their jobs than their heterosexual counterparts. Gay men are found to earn less than comparably skilled and experienced heterosexual men. For lesbians, the patterns are ambiguous: in some countries they have been found to earn less than their heterosexual counterparts, while in others they earn the same or more.
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  • Anonymous job applications and hiring discrimination Updated

    Blind recruitment can level the playing field in access to jobs but cannot prevent all forms of discrimination

    Ulf Rinne, October 2018
    The use of anonymous job applications (or blind recruitment) to combat hiring discrimination is gaining attention and interest. Results from field experiments and pilot projects in European countries (France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden are considered here), Canada, and Australia shed light on their potential to reduce some of the discriminatory barriers to hiring for minority and other disadvantaged groups. But although this approach can achieve its primary aims, there are also important cautions to consider.
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  • Do anti-discrimination policies work?

    A mix of policies could be the solution to reducing discrimination in the labor market

    Marie-Anne Valfort, May 2018
    Discrimination is a complex, multi-factor phenomenon. Evidence shows widespread discrimination on various grounds, including ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or beliefs, disability, being over 55 years old, or being a woman. Combating discrimination requires combining the strengths of a range of anti-discrimination policies while also addressing their weaknesses. In particular, policymakers should thoroughly address prejudice (taste-based discrimination), stereotypes (statistical discrimination), cognitive biases, and attention-based discrimination.
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