The Effect of Unfair Chances and Gender Discrimination on Labor Supply

Nickolas Gagnon, Kristof Bosmans, Arno Riedl

Research output: Working paper / PreprintWorking paper


Labor market opportunities and wages may be unfair for various reasons, and how workers respond to different types of unfairness can have major economic consequences. Using an online labor platform, where workers engage in an individual task for a piece-rate wage, we investigate the causal effect of neutral and gender-discriminatory unfair chances on labor supply. We randomize workers into treatments where we control relative pay and chances to receive a low or a high wage. Chances can be fair, unfair based on an unspecified source, or unfair based on gender discrimination. Unequal pay reduces labor supply of low-wage workers, irrespective of whether the low wage is the result of fair or unfair chances. Importantly, the source of unfair chances matters. When a low wage is the result of gender-discriminatory chances, workers matched with a high-wage worker substantially reduce their labor supply compared to the case of equal low wages (-22%). This decrease is twice as large as those induced by low wages due to fair chances or unfair chances coming from an unspecified source. An additional experiment confirms the deleterious effect of gender discrimination on labor supply in a work environment devoid of chances, and highlights that workers' beliefs about facing discrimination matter for their responses. Our results concerning gender discrimination indicate a new reason for the lower labor supply of women, which is a prominent explanation for the gender gap in earnings.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

SeriesSSRN Working papers

JEL classifications

  • d90 - Intertemporal Choice and Growth: General
  • e24 - "Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital"
  • j22 - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
  • j31 - "Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials"
  • j71 - Labor Discrimination
  • m50 - Personnel Economics: General


  • labor supply
  • wage inequality
  • procedural fairness
  • gender discrimination


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