Testing the Backlash Effect in the Labor Market: A Resume Audit Study
Marina M. Gorsuch, Duke University
A broad literature in social psychology has established that respondents react negatively when women engage in traditionally masculine actions in the workplace - described as the “backlash effect.” Because the backlash effect may contribute to earnings differences between men and women, it is important to understand how laboratory results translate into the labor market. I examine if employers react the same as respondents in a laboratory when women engage in traditionally masculine actions. I applied for jobs using resumes that vary on sex, sexual orientation, and the use of traditionally masculine or feminine adjectives. Employers call back women who use traditionally masculine adjectives more than when they use traditionally feminine adjectives. Heterosexual men are called back less when they use traditionally masculine adjectives then when they use traditionally feminine adjectives. Employers do not have a backlash effect when viewing the same resumes that inspired a backlash effect among laboratory respondents.