Discrimination in hiring based on potential and realized fertility

Do employers discriminate amongst potential job applicants on the basis of their potential fertility? Do women in fertile age make a less interesting employee than those who no longer able to have children? We seek to answer such questions.



Identifying whether or not job applicants are subject to discrimination by potential employers due to employer's expectations regarding fertility related costs (e.g. maternity/parternity leave, work disruption associated with child care).

Course of action

In order to identify the effect of potential fertility and other child related costs on employers’ hiring decisions, a Correspondence Testing experiment is conducted. In the latter, résumés of applicants that are matched in all relevant qualifications, like schooling or job experience, but which differ with respect to their demographic characteristics, are sent out in response to job advertisements. Different response rates across candidates are considered discrimination.


We conducted a large-scale Correspondence Test in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. We found evidence that, for part-time jobs, married women with older kids, who likely finished their childbearing, are at a significant advantage vis-à-vis other groups of women; at the same time, married, but childless applicants, who have a higher likelihood to become pregnant, are at a disadvantage compared to single, but childless applicants. Such effects are not present for full-time jobs.

Looking ahead

Should the results documented above be the result of maternity leave disrupting work processes, society needs to find better ways to address the costs of fertility. Should they stem from taste-based discrimination, policy that directly confronts such behavior is required. We hope our work is a source of motivation for additional and important research on this topic.