NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Discrimination at the Intersection of Age, Race, and Gender: Evidence from a Lab-in-the-field Experiment

Joanna N. Lahey, Douglas R. Oxley

NBER Working Paper No. 25357
Issued in December 2018
NBER Program(s):Program on the Economics of Aging, Labor Studies Program, Public Economics Program

We use a laboratory experiment with randomized resumes and eyetracking to explore the effects of race on employment discrimination over the lifecycle. We show race discrimination against prime-age black job applicants that diminishes into middle age before re-emerging for older applicants. Screeners mechanically process black and white resumes similarly, but spend less time on younger black resumes, suggesting they use negative heuristics or taste-based discrimination. Screeners demonstrate levels-based statistical discrimination, believing that younger black applicants have worse computer skills and more gaps in their job histories. We find no evidence that screeners believe black applicants have worse previous experience. Screeners demonstrate variance-based statistical discrimination against black applicants of all ages, suggesting that screeners perceive the stronger history signals for white applicants, with this type of discrimination disproportionately affecting older applicants. We find suggestive evidence that the signal sent by high school attended is weaker for younger black applicants compared to younger white applicants, and we find no evidence that the signal strength of the applicant’s address varies by race. Evidence from the CPS and an additional study supports the external validity of our experiment, particularly for female job applicants. Results are robust to different controls and specification choices.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25357

 
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