Competing for Jobs: Labor Queues and Gender Sorting in the Firing Process

Roberto M. Fernandez*, Marie Louise Mors

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


While much research has documented the pattern and extent of sex segregation of workers once they are employed, few studies have addressed the pre-hire mechanisms that are posited to produce sex segregation in employment. While the notion of a labor queue—the rank order of the set of people that employers choose among—plays a prominent role in pre-hire accounts of job sex sorting mechanisms, few studies have examined the ways in which job candidates are sorted into labor queues. In this paper, we explore the mechanisms by which labor queues contribute to the gendering of jobs by studying the hiring process for all jobs at a call center. Being placed in a queue has a clear gendering effect on the hiring process: the sex distribution of applicants who are matched to queues and those who are rejected at this phase diverge, and among those assigned to queues, women are prevalent in queues for low pay, low status jobs. The screening process also contributes to the gendering of the population of hires at this firm. Females are more prevalent among hires than they are among candidates at initial queue assignment. Among high status jobs, however, males are more prevalent than females. Moreover, there are important wage implications associated with matching to queues. While there are large between-queue sex differences in the paid wages associated with allocation to queues, once allocated to queues the wage differences between male and female candidates are nil. Consequently, the roots of gender wage inequality in this setting lie in the initial sorting of candidates to labor queues.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Science Research
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1061-1080
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Employer screening
  • Gender inequality
  • Hiring processes
  • Job sex segregation
  • Labor queues
  • Stratification
  • Wage inequality

Cite this