Discrimination against women in the apprenticeship market

By Dorothea KüblerJulia Schmidand Robert Stüber - Version in Deutsch

Although the labor market outcomes of men and women have converged, major gender differences in the labor market prevail. Hence, an important question is what causes these differences to persist. In a recent study, BCCP fellows Dorothea Kübler, Julia Schmid, and Robert Stüber try to answer this question focusing on the first stage of the careers of young women and men by analyzing the German apprenticeship market.

To analyze gender discrimination in the apprenticeship market, the researchers included short CVs of fictitious applicants (vignettes) for apprenticeship positions in the Training Panel 14 of the Federal Institute of Vocational Education and Training (BIBB). Human resource managers from approximately 650 German firms that engage in apprenticeship training evaluated how likely they think it is that an applicant would be invited to a job interview. Various applicant characteristics, such as, for instance, the average grade when leaving school or practical experiences, were randomly varied between the vignettes. Thus, a comparison of female and male applicants shows the causal effect of gender. The study delivers three main findings.

First, women are discriminated against when applying for an apprenticeship position. On average, their applications are evaluated worse than the applications of male applicants. The difference corresponds approximately to a change in the average grade by one grade point. This finding is based on a sample that is representative of the population of German firms, including firms that train apprentices in 126 different occupations.

Second, embedding the vignettes in a comprehensive survey not only allows for measuring discrimination in a variety of occupations and industries, but also to analyze the relationship between discrimination and different firm- and occupation-specific characteristics. The authors find that the amount of discrimination varies by industry and occupation. It matters whether an occupation is predominantly female or male, with women being significantly less likely to be invited for an interview than men when applying for male-dominated occupations, like technical occupations such as mechatronics engineer. There is no evidence of discrimination against men in female-dominated occupations, though. Women fare especially worse than men in professions with a low social status according to a status index. Furthermore, there is no clear relationship between the average wage of a profession, the educational requirement, or firm size and discrimination. In contrast, the authors only find a difference in the evaluation between men and women made by human research managers of firms in which no or only a few apprenticeship positions have remained unfilled in past years.

Third, controlling for several firm and occupation characteristics, only the share of women in a profession correlates with the difference in evaluations. All other firm- and occupation-specific variables cannot explain variation in discrimination. Thus, the results show that women have lower chances of getting a job in male-dominated industries. The results are consistent with policies that aim at increasing the number of women in jobs where they are underrepresented.

The study Gender Discrimination in Hiring Across Occupations: A Nationally-Representative Vignette Study was recently published in Labour Economics.