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Does size matter? Hiring discrimination and firm size

Stijn Baert (Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)
Ann-Sofie De Meyer (Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)
Yentl Moerman (Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)
Eddy Omey (Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Article publication date: 2 July 2018




The purpose of this paper is to study the association between firm size and hiring discrimination against women, ethnic minorities and older job candidates.


The authors merge field experimental measures on unequal treatment with firm-level data. The resulting data enable the authors to assess whether discrimination varies by indicators of firm size, keeping other firm characteristics constant.


In contrast with the theoretical expectations, the authors find no evidence for an association between firm size and hiring discrimination. On the other hand, the authors do find suggestive evidence for hiring discrimination being lower in respect of public or non-profit firms (compared to commercial firms).

Social implications

To effectively combat hiring discrimination, one needs to understand its driving factors. In other words, to design adequate policy actions, targeted to the right employers in the right way, one has to gain insight into when individuals are discriminated in particular, i.e. into the moderators of labour market discrimination. In this study, the authors focus on firm size as a moderator of hiring discrimination.


Former contributions investigated this association within the context of ethnic discrimination only and included hardly any controls for other firm-level drivers of discrimination. The authors are the first to study the heterogeneity in discrimination by firm size with respect to multiple discrimination grounds and control for additional firm characteristics.



The authors are grateful to two anonymous reviewers, Jens Agerström, Wouter De Tavernier, Gunn Elisabeth Birkelund, Ian Burn, Emmanuel Duguet, Margaret Maurer-Fazio, Laura Naegele, and Dan-Olof Rooth for their comments, which helped them to improve this study substantially.


Baert, S., De Meyer, A.-S., Moerman, Y. and Omey, E. (2018), "Does size matter? Hiring discrimination and firm size", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 39 No. 4, pp. 550-566.



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