A Fair Recruitment Process? Mismatch Between People’s Perceptions and Evidence From Field Experiments on Hiring Discrimination

About this Session


Fri. 08.04. 15:00



Speaker: Valentina di Stasio

Using data from round 9 of the European Social Survey (ESS), I analyze people’s perceptions of recruiters’ fairness towards people with an immigrant background. My focus is on cross-national differences in perceptions of fairness. Two alternative hypotheses can be derived from the literature. On the one hand, people living in countries with stronger anti-discrimination laws may be more aware of people’s legal rights and more readily recognize discrimination. On the other hand, contexts with favorable anti-discrimination institutions may create an ‘illusion of fairness’ that makes people less likely to interpret events as discriminatory. Preliminary results indicate that fairness perceptions are positively related to formal legislation preventing unfair treatment at the workplace. Interestingly, people perceive the recruitment process as fairer in more unequal countries, and a positive interaction indicates that this association is even stronger in countries with better developed anti-discrimination legislation.

In a second step, I restrict my focus to a subset of five countries (Germany, Netherlands, Spain, UK, Norway) where we conducted harmonized field experiments on hiring discrimination at approximately the same time the ESS data were gathered, as part of the GEMM project. Results show that, paradoxically, people perceive the hiring process as fairer towards immigrants in high-discrimination contexts. Based on ESS data, Austria and Germany are the countries where the recruitment process is perceived as less fair, in stark contrast with results from meta-analyses of field experiments that consistently document lower levels of discrimination in German-speaking countries. Germany was also the country with the lowest level of discrimination in the GEMM project, possibly because the high level of detail of job applications lowers employers’ tendency to rely on stereotypes. Remarkably, Britain is the country with the highest share of respondents believing in a fair recruitment process, while field experiments conducted in Britain, including GEMM, have recorded a remarkably high level of ethnic discrimination in the British context.