University of California, Irvine

To conduct newly-designed field experiments on age discrimination in U.S. labor markets, eliminating potential biases in existing studies, so as to provide policymakers with a firmer basis for understanding age discrimination in hiring

  • Amount $322,392
  • City Irvine, CA
  • Investigator David Neumark
  • Year 2013
  • Program Working Longer
  • Sub-program

Audit/correspondence (AC) studies are the most frequently used research design for ascertaining the extent of age discrimination in hiring. This design involves submitting nearly identical resumes online to posted job openings. Resumes differ only by the age of the applicant. Discrimination is ascertained if younger applicants get more call-backs than do older ones. This methodology, however, appears likely to generate bias in favor of finding age discrimination. Because resumes give both younger and older applicants the same, low level of experience, the older applicant will appear to have “holes” in her work history that are likely to be viewed unfavorably. On the other hand, perceived (but unmeasured) differences in the human capital investment of older workers might lead employers to prefer older to younger applicants, biasing the result of audit studies in the opposite direction.This grant provides support for two field experiments by David Neumark of the University of California, Irvine aimed at increasing our understanding of the limitations of the audit/correspondence framework. The first will field an audit study where the resumes of older workers are not identical with their younger counterparts, but instead include work experience commensurate with their age. A finding that older workers are still less likely to be called for interviews may better match the legal standard for age discrimination. A second audit study will be fielded for both types of older applicants—those with equal low levels of experience like in past studies, and those with experience commensurate with age. Differential employer response to these resumes will capture differences in indicators of human capital among older workers.

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