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: Nobel Prize-winning economist’s latest work examines how job postings improved gender diversity

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The Berkeley economist who was awarded this year’s Nobel Prize for his work on minimum wage and immigration has released new research on how job listings can affect gender diversity in workplaces.

David Card, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Joshua Angrist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Guido Imbens from Stanford University shared the Nobel Prize for economics for their work with “natural experiments.” That work includes the impact of immigration and minimum wage on jobs and the economy. 

On Monday, the National Bureau for Economic Research circulated new research from Card, co-authored with economists Fabrizio Colella and Rafael Lalive from the University of Lausanne. The economists analyzed the effects of employers specifying preferences for females, males, or neither gender in jobs listings.  

“The elimination of gender preferences led to a rise in the fraction of women hired for jobs that were likely to be targeted to men (and vice versa), increasing the diversity of hiring workplaces,” they wrote. “Partially offsetting this effect, we find a reduction in the success of non-stereotypical vacancies in hiring the targeted gender, and indications of a decline in the efficiency of matching.”

The inspiration for and source of their research: A campaign launched in Austria in 2005 designed to remind and enlighten employers and newspapers that gender preferences in job advertisements were against the law. “At the time over 40% of openings on the nation’s largest job-board specified a preferred gender. Over the next year the fraction fell to under 5%,” they wrote. 

Removing gender preferences from job vacancies led to a 2.5 percentage-point increase in the fraction of women hired to fill vacancies with a predicted male preference, and a smaller — “but still significant” — 1 percentage-point increase in the fraction of men hired to fill vacancies with a predicted female preference. The Austrian campaign, therefore, “had relatively large effects on job opportunities, particularly for women,” they wrote.

The net effect, therefore, was to increase diversity in hiring. Card, Colella and Lalive wrote: “Taken together with the finding of no degradation in match quality for the associated jobs, we conclude that many of the stereotypical preferences observed before the campaign were likely based on outdated priors, rather than on true productivity gaps or on rigidly held discriminatory beliefs that would be immune to policy.”

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