HIV infection fits the profile of a condition that carries a high level of stigmatization: it is perceived as a great danger and often arouses fear of contagion (Herek ). Since the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic, people carrying the infection and those suspected of being infected with HIV have been subjected to social ostracism and employment discrimination (Gostin and Webber ). Worldwide, there are documented cases of job discrimination related to HIV/AIDS: job applicants are passed over for recruitment, and workers are dismissed, denied promotions, excluded from social benefits and other entitlements, and refused entry into foreign territories for employment purposes on account of their HIV status (Barragan , Omangi ). Nevertheless, a firm that refuses a job or terminates employment must show that an individual poses a direct threat to the performance of routine job duties.
Sociological and psychological surveys of public opinion revealed a widespread fear of the disease, and a lack of accurate information about its transmission (Herek ). Economists, on the other hand, have not yet explored the relationship between labour market outcomes and HIV status. In the current study, we develop for the first time an experiment to determine if known HIV-positive applicants are treated differently in the hiring process from their equally skilled, but uninfected, counterparts in Greece. The Correspondence Test approach, so named for its simulation of the communication between job applicants and employers, involves sending carefully matched pairs of written job applications in response to advertised vacancies to test for discrimination in hiring during the initial stage of selection for an interview (Bertrand and Mullainathan ).
Methodologically, based on Riach and Rich (2002), health conditions can be identified by a paragraph in the applicant’s curriculum vitae explaining the applicant’s special health status. For the purposes of this study disclosure of an applicant’s HIV status is necessary; otherwise, the practice of hiding one’s HIV status is likely to reduce the measurable impact of discriminatory behavior. Since people living with HIV are generally reluctant to reveal their condition; collecting data about them is difficult and analysis of the potentially obtained data presents additional challenges . As experimental economists, we wish to explain real-world issues and to provide knowledge and insight that are relevant to improving our understanding of the world as it is and to help solve the problems faced by individuals.
The data were gathered from June 2007 through February 2008 in Athens, the capital of Greece, as part of the Athens Area Study (AAS) conducted by the University of Crete. The 2007 AAS is one component of the Multi-City Study of the Scientific Center for the Study of Discrimination (SCSD). Our estimations suggest that HIV discrimination is a real issue in the Greek labour market: discrimination against HIV-positive applicants exists and is significant. Meanwhile, the degree of discrimination is unrelated to an applicant’s education level and job status.