Kate Weisshaar

Intermittent Labor Force Participation: A Source of Discrimination?
2015 Dissertation Fellowship
Mechanisms Explaining Perceptions toward Individuals with Intermittent Labor Force Participation
2014–15 Survey Lab Project

When individuals experience lapses in employment, from unemployment or “opting out” to care for their families, they are perceived as less valuable workers on a number of dimensions. They also face disadvantages when regaining employment, as evidenced from cross-sectional survey data. In this project I explore the mechanisms surroudning these disadvantages. I plan to conduct a vignette study in which the reason and explanation for an individual’s employment history is manipulated. This survey experiment will help to assess which mechanisms are taking place to explain different perceptions by gender, parental status, and employment history, of potential workers. The project will be valuable in understanding what sources are contributing to disadvantages faced by those with employment lapses, and will expand upon our understanding of gender biases in the labor market.

Intermittent Labor Force Participation: A Source of Discrimination?
2013–14 Survey Lab Project

The majority of men and women have experienced a lapse in labor market participation at some point in their careers, for a number of reasons: unemployment, the decision to “opt out” of work to care for children or one’s family, and more. This project asks the question of how lapses in employment, for various reasons, influence individuals’ labor market re-entry processes. Do the reasons behind employment lapses differ in eventual labor market outcomes, such as wages and hiring? Furthermore, given that mothers are particularly likely to partake in leave for family, how do these effects vary by gender? Using an original survey experiment, I find that Americans do hold negative attitudes toward workers with employment breaks, relative to those with no lapses in employment. These attitudes vary by gender and the reason for employment lapse, and suggest that mothers are disadvantaged when experiencing an employment break no matter the reason, as are fathers who “opt out,” but unemployed fathers receive a boost in hiring potential relative to continuously employed fathers. The results suggest that the groups that do face discriminatory attitudes could be disadvantaged in real labor market settings when trying to regain a job.

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