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Does marital status affect how firms interpret job applicants’ un/employment histories?

Margaret Maurer-Fazio (Department of Economics, Bates College, Lewiston, Maine, USA)
Sili Wang (Columbia University, New York, New York, USA)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Article publication date: 2 July 2018




The purpose of this paper is to explore whether single and married female job candidates’ un/employment histories differentially affect their chances of obtaining interviews through China’s internet job boards, and to consider whether firms’ discrimination against, and/or preference for, candidates who are un/employed vary with the duration of unemployment spells.


Resumes of fictitious applicants are carefully crafted in terms of realistic work histories and educational backgrounds. Candidates’ experiences of unemployment and the revelation of their marital status are controlled. Over 7,000 applications are submitted to real job postings. Callbacks are carefully tracked and recorded. Linear probability models are employed to assess the roles of particular characteristics.


The marital status of female candidates affects how recruiters screen their applications. While current spells of unemployment, whether short or long term, significantly reduce married women’s chances of obtaining job interviews in the Chinese context, they strongly increase the likelihood that single women will be invited for interviews. Chinese firms appear to “forgive” long-term gaps in women’s employment histories as long as those gaps are followed by subsequent employment.


This paper is the first to explore how marital status affects the ways that firms, when hiring, interpret spells of unemployment in candidates’ work histories. It is also the first to explore the effects of both marital status and unemployment spells in hiring in the context of China’s dynamic internet job board labor market.



Maurer-Fazio, M. and Wang, S. (2018), "Does marital status affect how firms interpret job applicants’ un/employment histories?", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 39 No. 4, pp. 567-580.



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