Employers' Preferences for Gender, Age, Height and Beauty: Direct Evidence
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.
The authors thank UC Santa Barbara's Institute for Social, Behavioral and Economic Research (ISBER) for financial support. Kuhn thanks UC Berkeley's Center for Labor Economics for their generous hospitality during the research on this project. Catherine Weinberger, and seminar participants at Xiamen University, Tsinghua University, Renmin University China, ZEW (Centre for European Economic Research), University of Aarhus, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Trans-Pacific Labor Seminar, the all-UC labor economics conference, UC Denver, and UCSB supplied helpful comments. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.