Can Social Media Lead to Labor Market Discrimination? Evidence from a Field Experiment
37 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2014 Last revised: 18 May 2018
Date Written: July 24, 2017
Disclosing personal information on social media has become a daily habit for millions of online users. Facebook originally was intended for leisure and for maintaining personal relationships, but content published on Facebook has become pervasive and is accessible to recruiters. In this paper, we investigate the role of social media on discrimination during hiring. We set up a field experiment over a 12-month period, involving more than 800 applications from two fictitious applicants, which differed in one aspect, their perceived origins, available only from their Facebook profiles. A significant 37% gap between the two applicants callback rates highlights that personal online profiles are used to discriminate against applicants of foreign origin. Additionally, during the experiment an unexpected change in the Facebook layout altered the display of our online signal. We take advantage from this natural experiment to confirm the relevance of the information available on social media profiles, suggesting that the screening conducted by the employers does not go beyond the main pages of profiles.
Keywords: Online Social Network; Labor Market Discrimination; Privacy; Field experiment
JEL Classification: J71; D83; K31; C93
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