NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Employers' Preferences for Gender, Age, Height and Beauty: Direct Evidence

Peter Kuhn, Kailing Shen

NBER Working Paper No. 15564
Issued in December 2009
NBER Program(s):   LS

We study firms’ advertised preferences for gender, age, height and beauty in a sample of ads from a Chinese internet job board, and interpret these patterns using a simple employer search model. We find that these characteristics are widely and highly valued by Chinese employers, though employers’ valuations are highly specific to detailed jobs and occupations. Consistent with our model, advertised preferences for gender, age, height and beauty all become less prevalent as job skill requirements rise. Cross-sectional patterns suggest some role for customer discrimination, product market competition, and corporate culture. Using the recent collapse of China’s labor market as a natural experiment, we find that firms’ advertised education and experience requirements respond to changing labor market conditions in the direction predicted by our model, while firms’ advertised preferences for age, gender, height and beauty do not.

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