No. 182 - The glass drop ceiling: composition effects or implicit discrimination?

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by Claudia Biancotti, Giuseppe Ilardi and Clair Lavinia MoscatelliJune 2013

We analyze data from the Bank of Italy's most recent recruitment rounds, in an effort to explain why men consistently score better than women. We focus on the pre-screening stage of the hiring process, a multiple-choice test, where men acquire a preliminary advantage. After observing a higher incidence of questions left blank for women, and a negative correlation between the share of unanswered questions and the final score, we run an experiment on scoring formulas to check for implicit discrimination linked to risk aversion; no evidence of such discrimination is found. Based on a follow-up questionnaire, we also study the role of composition effects. Nearly 40 per cent of the gap in test scores depends on the quality of the candidates: male graduates appear to self-select into the applicant pool more frequently than females do. A further 34 per cent is explained by the fact that the same characteristics tend to produce different effects based on gender. The remaining 26 per cent remains unexplained.

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