Childbearing Age and the Shadow Mommy Effect on Hiring: A Large-Scale Field Experiment
52 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2022 Last revised: 11 Oct 2023
Date Written: August 24, 2022
Gender stereotypes and discrimination within organizations often hinder women's labor market participation, particularly during their childbearing years. To test this hypothesis, we conduct a large-scale field experiment in China to investigate the effect of women's childbearing age on labor market discrimination. We send 35,713 fictitious resumes to real job postings on a major Chinese online recruitment platform for jobs in four leading cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. We submit job applications to organizations in the male-dominated field of information technology, the female-dominated field of accounting, and the mixed-gender field of human resources. Generally, the evidence indicates that women of childbearing age experience statistical discrimination, regardless of their actual motherhood status. However, the shadow mommy effect is heterogeneous across different fields of occupations, firm ownership types, and cities. Our findings indicate that employers' concerns about potential costs arising from gendered parental responsibility disparities are the main mediators of the shadow mommy effect. Nonetheless, fostering inclusivity for women, adopting robust ESG practices, and offering additional childcare support can mitigate this discrimination against women of childbearing age. The results also suggest a negative relationship between labor market discrimination against women of childbearing age and the fertility rate in urban areas. This study provides insights for decision-makers in both public and private organizations, laying the groundwork for potential policy development to address gender inequality in the labor market and related challenges in similar societies.
Keywords: Correspondence Study, Labor Market Discrimination, Motherhood Penalty, Diversity in Organizations
JEL Classification: C93, J71, J16, M51
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