Does Marital Status Affect How Firms Interpret Job Applicants' Un/Employment Histories?

28 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2018

See all articles by Margaret Maurer-Fazio

Margaret Maurer-Fazio

Bates College - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Sili Wang

Columbia University


This field experiment explores whether single and married female job candidates' un/employment histories differentially affect their chances of obtaining interviews through China's Internet job boards. It also considers whether firms' discrimination against, and/or preference for, candidates who are un/employed vary with the duration of unemployment spells. Resumes of fictitious applicants are carefully crafted in terms of realistic work histories and educational backgrounds. Candidates' experiences of unemployment and declaration of marital status are carefully controlled. Over 7000 applications are submitted to real job postings. Callbacks are tracked and recorded. Linear probability models are employed to assess the effects of particular resume characteristics in terms of obtaining interviews.The marital status of female candidates affects how recruiters screen their applications. While current spells of unemployment, whether short- or long-term, significantly reduce married women's chances of obtaining job interviews in the Chinese context, they strongly increase the likelihood that single women will be invited for interviews. Chinese firms appear to "forgive" long-term gaps in women's employment histories as long as those gaps are followed by subsequent employment. This paper is the first to explore how marital status affects the ways that firms, when hiring, interpret spells of unemployment in candidates' work histories. It is also the first to explore the effects of both marital status and unemployment spells in hiring in the context of China's dynamic Internet job board labor market.

Keywords: field experiments, unemployment, discrimination in employment, hiring, chinese labor markets, internet job boards, résumé correspondence audit study, marital status

JEL Classification: C93, J71, J23, O53

Suggested Citation

Maurer-Fazio, Margaret and Wang, Sili, Does Marital Status Affect How Firms Interpret Job Applicants' Un/Employment Histories?. IZA Discussion Paper No. 11363, Available at SSRN:

Margaret Maurer-Fazio (Contact Author)

Bates College - Department of Economics ( email )

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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Sili Wang

Columbia University

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