IPP Policy Brief n°67 - May 2021

Gender discrimination in hiring: Lessons from a large-scale correspondence test

IPP Policy Brief n°67

May 2021

Contacts : thomas.breda@ipp.eu, nicolas.jacquemet@univ-paris1.fr

Authors (comprehensive list) :

DARES-MAR: Émilie Arnoult (CEET-Lirsa), Marie Ruault, Emmanuel Valat (Université Gustave Eiffel, ERUDITE) et Pierre Villedieu (Sciences-Po, LIEPP).

IPP Rsearchers: Thomas Breda (PSE, IPP), Nicolas Jacquemet (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, PSE), Morgane Laouenan (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, LIEPP), Roland Rathelot (University of Warwick), Mirna Safi (Sciences-Po, LIEPP), Clara Schaeper (Berlin School of Economics) et Joyce Sultan Parraud (IPP).

ISM-CORUM: Amélie Allegre, Anna Bagramova, Frédérique Bouvier, Fabrice Foroni, Sara Ftoh Fennane, Isabelle Huet, Bianka Kozma, Amine Medaghri Alaoui et Elshaday Tekle.


logo-pdf-minGender discrimination in hiring: Lessons from a large-scale correspondence test



Inequalities between women and men are a striking feature of the labor market: They are reflected in lower participation and lower wages for women, who also have less upwardly mobile career paths. The role of the conditions of entry into employment in contributing to these occupational inequalities is still poorly understood. To gain a better understanding of gender discrimination in hiring, a large-scale experiment was carried out by sending fictitious CVs in response to several thousand job others in 11 different professions. These CVs differed only in the name of the applicant, to eliminate the effect of the quality of the applications on the chances of callback in the first phase of the recruitment process. Female and male applicants with a first name of French origin received the same overall response from employers: One third were called back, half did not receive a response, and the others were rejected. However, there were significant differences according to the level of qualification, with women being at a disadvantage in low-skilled occupations, while the opposite was true for
managerial roles. The inclusion of information on family status (presence of children, marital status) or indicating a period of inactivity on the CVs did not result in any significant difference in treatment between female and male applications.

Key points:

  • Several thousand resumes were sent in response to job postings for 11 different occupations. We randomly varied the gender of applicants from one application to the next in order to measure gender discrimination in hiring.
  • On average, women and men are contacted equally often by employers, so there is no detectable  gender discrimination in the first phase of the recruitment process.
  • The lack of discrimination on average is not related to the Covid-19 pandemic and was already observed before it.
  • On the other hand, there are significant disparities linked to the level of qualification required, with women being disadvantaged in the least skilled jobs, but favored in more skilled professions, particularly when they involve management.
  • This “reversal” in favor of women between low-skilled and skilled jobs is driven by occupations in which men make up the vast majority.
  • The addition of information on CVs concerning the presence of children, marital status, or the existence of periods of inactivity does not, on average, discriminate against female applicants.