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Do Job Networks Disadvantage Women? Evidence from a Recruitment Experiment in Malawi (WP-12-19)

Lori Beaman, Niall Keleher, and Jeremy Magruder

Using a field experiment in Malawi where men and women apply for future surveyor positions with a local firm, Beaman and her co-authors find that highly skilled women are systematically disadvantaged through the use of referrals. This happens both because most men recommend other men, and because women refer fewer candidates who qualify for the position. The authors document that segregated networks do not cause this behavior. They develop a theoretical model of referral choice and exploit random variation in referral contract terms to find that both men's and women's biases result from social incentives rather than expectations of performance. They also document that the screening potential of networks is maximized when men refer men, and the evidence points towards limited information about female candidates in men's networks. This paper suggests that the use of social networks in hiring is an additional channel through which women are disadvantaged in the labor market.

Lori Beaman, Assistant Professor of Economics, and Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

Niall Keleher, Director of Research Methods and Training, Innovations for Poverty Action

Jeremy Magruder, Assistant Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California, Berkeley

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