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Patrick Button - Tulane University. New Orleans, LA, US

Patrick Button

Assistant Professor | Tulane University


Patrick Button's research is focused on quantifying discrimination, primarily in labor markets.





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Patrick Button researches in three areas. First, he tries to quantify discrimination in labor markets. He is currently working on field experiments that quantify hiring discrimination faced by older workers and Indigenous Peoples.

Second, in addition to quantifying discrimination, he also studies if age and disability discrimination laws actually reduce employment discrimination. He is currently working on a project funded by the National Bureau of Economic Research that investigates how changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act have affected employment and earnings of individuals with disabilities.

Third, he studies how tax incentives for economic development affect where firms operate, using tax incentives for the film industry as a case study.

Areas of Expertise (8)

LGBT Discrimination

Film Tax Incentives


Age Discrimination

Hiring Discrimination

Disability Discrimination

Social Security

Audit Studies

Education (3)

University of California, Irvine: Ph.D., Economics 2015

University of Toronto: M.A., Economics 2010

University of Regina: B.A., Economics 2008

Affiliations (4)

  • Research Affiliate, IZA Institute of Labor Economics
  • Affiliated Researcher, Michigan Retirement Research Center
  • Affiliated Researcher, NBER Disability Research Center
  • Assistant Professor of Economics, Tulane University

Media Appearances (5)

If you weren't raised in the Internet age, you may need to worry about workplace age discrimination

Los Angeles Times  online


And legal protections against age discrimination tend to skew more toward men. “Evidence suggests laws help older men more than older women,” said Patrick Button, one of the authors of the study and an assistant professor at Tulane University.

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Women over 50? Help not wanted

PBS  online


Video: Women over 50? Help Not Wanted.

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Here's Proof That Age Discrimination Is Widespread in the Job Market

Bloomberg  online


And the older you are, the more discrimination you face, according to the authors of a National Bureau of Economic Research study out Monday.

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Why age discrimination is worse for women

The Washington Post  online


But study authors David Neumark and Ian Burn of the University of California at Irvine and Patrick Button of Tulane University thought that the way in which hiring discrimination is usually detected — through dummy résumés sent out in response to real job postings — might have been flawed, because they test responses to older and younger applicants with "commensurate experience." Even a rational hiring manager might have doubts about a 50-year-old who has the same number and type of jobs on his or her résumé as a 25-year-old, after all.

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Anti-Discrimination Laws Didn’t Help Older Men Get Back to Work

The Wall Street Journal  online


“These results provide very little evidence that stronger state age discrimination protections helped older workers weather the Great Recession,” wrote David Neumark and Patrick Button. “In fact, the opposite may have occurred, with older workers bearing more of the brunt of the Great Recession in states with stronger age discrimination protections.” Mr. Neumark, director of the Center for Economics & Public Policy at the University of California, Irvine, and Mr. Button, a doctoral candidate at the university, studied data on duration of unemployment spells during and after the 2007-09 recession.

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Articles (10)

Employment Discrimination against Indigenous Peoples in the United States: Evidence from a Field Experiment

Patrick Button

Patrick Button

2019 We conducted a resume correspondence experiment to measure discrimination in hiring faced by Indigenous Peoples in the United States (Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians). We sent employers realistic resumes for common jobs (retail sales, kitchen staff, server, janitor, and security) in 11 cities and compared interview offer rates. We signaled Indigenous status in one of four different ways. Based on 13,516 applications, we do not find hiring discrimination in any context. These findings hold after numerous robustness checks, although our checks and discussions raise multiple concerns that are relevant to audit studies generally.

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Can tax incentives create a local film industry? Evidence from Louisiana and New Mexico

Journal of Urban Affairs

Patrick Button

2018 State film incentives (SFIs) are a recent and popular economic development incentive. I study these through case studies of two prominent SFIs—those in Louisiana and New Mexico—using the synthetic control case study method. This allows me to estimate the effect of SFIs relative to “business as usual”: what would have happened without SFIs. I estimate the effects of these SFIs on filming location, using databases from IMDb and Studio System, and on business establishments and employment in the motion picture production industry using the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.

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Is it Harder for Older Workers to Find Jobs? New and Improved Evidence from a Field Experiment

Journal of Political Economy

2018 We design and implement a large-scale field experiment – a resume correspondence study – to address a number of potential limitations of existing field experiments testing for age discrimination, which may bias their results. One limitation that may bias these studies towards finding discrimination is the practice of giving older and younger applicants similar experience in the job to which they are applying, making them “otherwise comparable.” The second limitation arises because greater unobserved differences in human capital investment of older applicants may bias existing field experiments against finding age discrimination. We also study ages closer to retirement than in past studies, and use a richer set of job profiles for older workers to test for differences associated with transitions to less demanding jobs (“bridge jobs”) at older ages. Based on evidence from over 40,000 job applications, we find robust evidence of age discrimination in hiring against older women, especially those near retirement age. But we find that there is considerably less evidence of age discrimination against men after correcting for the potential biases this study addresses.

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Disability Saliency and Discrimination in Hiring

American Economic Association

Philip Armour, Patrick Button, & Simon Hollands

2018 Theory suggests that disability discrimination protections may adversely affect the hiring of individuals with disabilities by making them more expensive. Using SIPP data, we explore how the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA), which expanded disability discrimination protections, affected the relative hiring rate of individuals with disabilities. We employ new categorizations of disability type: salient physical conditions, non-salient physical conditions, mental retardation and developmental disability, and other mental conditions.

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Population Aging, Age Discrimination, and Age Discrimination Protections at 50th Anniversary of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act


Patrick Button

2018 This chapter discusses population aging, increased participation of seniors in the labor force in the United States (and reasons for this), and how these trends are making the struggles of older workers in the labor market increasingly policy relevant. Evidence examining if age discrimination is a barrier for seniors as they try to increase their work lives through the common practice of “bridge” jobs is also presented. After discussing the evidence that measures age discrimination, economics and legal research that seeks to determine to what extent the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act and state-level age discrimination laws prevent age discrimination is discussed.

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Expanding Employment Discrimination Protections for Individuals with Disabilities: Evidence from California

Industrial and Labor Relations Review

2017 Effective 2001, California passed the Prudence Kay Poppink Act, which broadened California’s disability employment discrimination law to cover individuals with less-severe disabilities by lowering the burden of proof to establish a disability. Using both difference-in-differences and difference-in-difference-in-differences regression analyses and data from the Current Population Survey, the author estimates how this act affected the labor market outcomes for individuals with disabilities. The results suggest that the act significantly increased employment for individuals with disabilities, with the effect persisting at least partially up to six years later.

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Experimental Age Discrimination Evidence and the Heckman Critique

American Economic Review

2016 We design and implement a large-scale field experiment on age discrimination to address limitations of past research that may bias their results. One limitation is the practice of giving older and younger applicants similar experience in the job to which they are applying, to make them "otherwise comparable." The second limitation is ignoring the likelihood of greater variation in unobserved differences among older workers owing to human capital investment. Based on evidence from over 40,000 job applications, we find robust evidence of age discrimination in hiring against older women, but considerably less evidence of age discrimination against older men.

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Does Protecting Older Workers From Discrimination Make It Harder to Get Hired? Evidence From Disability Discrimination Laws

Research on Aging

2016 We explore the effects of disability discrimination laws on hiring of older workers. A concern with antidiscrimination laws is that they may reduce hiring by raising the cost of terminations and—in the specific case of disability discrimination laws—raising the cost of employment because of the need to accommodate disabled workers. Moreover, disability discrimination laws can affect nondisabled older workers because they are fairly likely to develop work-related disabilities, but are generally not protected by these laws. Using state variation in disability discrimination protections, we find little or no evidence that stronger disability discrimination laws lower the hiring of nondisabled older workers. We similarly find no evidence of adverse effects of disability discrimination laws on hiring of disabled older workers.

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Model Uncertainty and Model Averaging in Regression Discontinuity Designs

Journal of Econometric Methods

Patrick Button

2015 Parametric (polynomial) models are popular in research employing regression discontinuity designs and are required when data are discrete. However, researchers often choose a parametric model based on data inspection or pretesting. These approaches lead to standard errors and confidence intervals that are too small because they do not incorporate model uncertainty. I propose using Frequentist model averaging to incorporate model uncertainty into parametric models. My Monte Carlo experiments show that Frequentist model averaging leads to mean square error and coverage probability improvements over pretesting.

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Did age discrimination protections help older workers weather the great recession?

Journal of Policy Analysis and Management

2014 We examine whether stronger age discrimination laws at the state level moderated the impact of the Great Recession on older workers. We use a difference‐in‐difference‐in‐differences strategy to compare older and younger workers, in states with stronger and weaker laws, before, during, and after the Great Recession. We find very little evidence that stronger age discrimination protections helped older workers weather the Great Recession, relative to younger workers. The evidence sometimes points in the opposite direction, with stronger state age discrimination protections associated with more adverse effects of the Great Recession on older workers. We suggest that during an experience such as the Great Recession, severe labor market disruptions make it difficult to discern discrimination, weakening the effects of stronger state age discrimination protections. Alternatively, higher termination costs associated with stronger age discrimination protections may do more to deter hiring when future product and labor demand is highly uncertain.

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