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Is Discrimination Against Women Really Declining? The Puzzle of Survey Reports

By Heather Antecol and Peter Kuhn

Abstract

This paper seeks to explain why young women are much more likely to report being harmed by gender discrimination than older women. Using a recent sample of job seekers, we conclude that the answer does not lie in higher "objective" discrimination, as usually measured by economists, since measured discrimination is not higher against young women on any dimension we can measure. Because young women are also more likely to report that they were the beneficiaries of labor market discrimination than older women, and because young men are more likely than older men to report that they were harmed by discrimination, we conclude that the answer is also unlikely to lie in a higher overall level of unmeasured discrimination against young women. Using a formal model of the reporting decision, we conclude that the most likely cause of young women's higher reports is a difference in reporting behavior between young and old workers of both sexes: young workers are more willing to interpret departures in either direction from gender-neutral treatment as discriminatory than older workers.

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