Exploring factors that influence gender-based preferences in hiring decisions : a survey experiment
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A persistent and pressing area of sociological concern is exploring how, where, and against whom discrimination occurs in labor markets. Competing theories attempt to explain how a hirer or decision maker’s gender relates to their preference for particular applicants. Homophily perspectives predict an in-group bias in which male hirers prefer male applicants and female hirers prefer female applicants. In contrast, Status Characteristics Theory suggests that the status associated with the applicant will motivate a hirer's views, which in the context of the labor market predicts male applicants receiving a preference from both female and male hirers. This study contributes to the theoretical debate on labor market decision-making by exploring how decision makers in the workforce respond to applications that vary on the basis of gender and recent employment history (i.e. whether or not the applicant is unemployed at the time of application submission). Employing original survey-experimental data, this study examines the following question: do male and female hirers differ in their preferences for job applicants on the basis of applicant gender? It finds that males and females do differ in their hiring preferences, with female hirers demonstrating an in-group preference for female applicants and that this preference is stronger when the applicant is presently employed and perceived to be competent. These findings suggest that hirer gender and present employment status moderate and that perceptions of applicant competence mediate the relationship between applicant gender and hiring outcomes. Consequently, these are important factors to consider when predicting gender-based labor market outcomes.