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Can Social Media Lead to Labor Market Discrimination?

A new Journal of Economics & Management Strategy study investigates whether social media may be used as a source of information for recruiters to discriminate against job applicants.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018 12:01 am EST
"This study illustrates that design choices made by online platforms can dramatically affect a decision like calling back, or not, an applicant for a job interview. Internet companies should integrate this fact into their design thinking"

A new Journal of Economics & Management Strategy study investigates whether social media may be used as a source of information for recruiters to discriminate against job applicants.

For the study, researchers set up an experiment that involved sending more than 800 applications from two fictitious applicants who differed in their cities of origin, a typical French town (Brives-la-Gaillarde) or Marrakesh, Morocco. This information is available only on their Facebook profiles, not on the resumes or the cover letters sent to recruiters. The investigators selected job openings published in over several months in mid-2012 on the French public agency for employment website Pôle emploi. 

A significant 41.7% gap between the two applicants’ callback rates highlighted that personal online profiles are used by recruiters as a source of information to discriminate against applicants of foreign origin.

During the experiment, the Facebook default layout changed as Facebook introduced sub-tabs within profiles. This change reduced the salience of the information related to the applicants’ language spoken. After the layout change, the difference in callback rates faded away. This suggests that the screening conducted by the employers does not go beyond the main pages of profiles. It also indicates that design choices made by online platforms, such as which information is displayed and how it is displayed, may have important consequences on the extent of discrimination.

“This study illustrates that design choices made by online platforms can dramatically affect a decision like calling back, or not, an applicant for a job interview. Internet companies should integrate this fact into their design thinking,” said co-author Dr. Matthieu Manant of University of Paris-Sud.

Additional Information

Link to Study: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jems.12291

About Journal

The Journal of Economics & Management Strategy provides a leading forum for interaction and research on the competitive strategies of managers and the organizational structure of firms. The Journal features theoretical and empirical industrial organization, applied game theory, and management strategy. JEMS is an important resource for economists in economics departments and in schools of business and management, including departments of finance, managerial economics, accounting, marketing, organization behavior, and management strategy. In addition, the journal serves as a valuable resource for managers and managerial consultants seeking up-to-date research on management strategy, and provides to practitioners a means of access to innovative economic research on the theory of the firm.

About Wiley

Wiley is a global leader in research and education. Our online scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly journals, and our digital learning, assessment, certification and student-lifecycle services and solutions help universities, academic societies, businesses, governments and individuals to achieve their academic and professional goals. For more than 200 years, we have delivered consistent performance to our stakeholders. The Company's website can be accessed at www.wiley.com.

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Penny Smith
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