When Gender Discrimination Is Not About Gender

by Katherine B. Coffman, Christine L. Exley, and Muriel Niederle

Overview — Gender discrimination in a typically male workplace is not necessarily driven by misogyny. Rather, employers are less willing to hire applicants associated with a lower performing group-even if that group is defined by a demographic characteristic other than gender.

Author Abstract

We use an experiment to show that employers prefer to hire male over female workers for a male-typed task even when they have identical resumes. Using a novel control condition, we document that this discrimination is not specific to gender. Employers are simply less willing to hire a worker from a group that performs worse on average, even when this group is instead defined by birth month, a non-stereotypical characteristic. A reluctance to discriminate emerges if workers share the gender or birth month of the worker from the worse-performing group, but even then, a small "excuse" counters this reluctance

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