Anonymous applications on the Economics PhD market. Really?

There is unfortunately still some discrimination left in labor markets. Literature has shown that in particular race and gender may matter in some cases, as well as beauty. While this is usually demonstrated by looking at the significance of some characteristic dummies that should not matter in hiring or wage decisions, another way to test for discrimination, at least in hiring, is to compare anonymous job applications to open ones. This is costly to do, and it may infringe some ethical issues, hence this is a rare exercise.

Annabelle Krause, Ulf Rinne and Klaus Zimmermann did this for applications of Economics PhDs to a position in a European institution. I am really puzzled what they expected to learn from such a peculiar market. Indeed, part of the recruitment pool was anonymized before being submitted to the recruitment team. This is very difficult to do properly, as CV, papers and reference letter have plenty of mentions of names and gender. And how to hide that when a candidate has published or is previously known to recruiters? And of course, this can only test up to the selection for the live interview, which is very early in the recruitment process.

In addition, it is very unlikely to find discrimination in such a specialized market. One, recruiting in an academic environment is usually closely scrutinized for discrimination. In fact I have been highly annoyed by the burden it takes to prove one has not discriminated. Two, I would even argue there is reverse discrimination, as recruitment committees are often under strong pressure to hire from "under-represented" groups. Three, the institution that agrees for this exercise is not discriminating consciously, or it is very foolish.

The results are not surprising. No discrimination is found, except a little reverse discrimination for women. It is impossible to generalize the results, as the sample is so small and so specific to this recruiting institution. I really do not see the point of this paper.

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