Press release

Publication of Department for Work and Pensions Report 664:Postcode Selection? Employers’ Use of Area and Address-Based Information Shortcuts in Recruitment Decisions

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The extent to which address-based discrimination exists and its potential contribution to high rates of worklessness in deprived areas.

Research is published today that considers the extent to which address-based discrimination by employers exists and its potential contribution to high rates of worklessness in deprived areas. The report also considers whether employer information networks could help combat inaccurate stereotypical perceptions among employers. The research will help inform future policies for addressing area-based deprivation.

The qualitative research comprised in-depth interviews with employers, employment agencies and Jobcentre Plus representatives. This was supplemented by econometric analysis of the Labour Force Survey and National Benefits Database, to determine whether individuals living in deprived areas may face disadvantages in the labour market, additional to their own personal characteristics.

The main findings were as follows:

  • Employers occasionally use information related to the applicants’ address as a shortcut to screen applicants. This relates primarily to practical factors (e.g. distance from the workplace); although statements made by a limited number of respondents suggest that area-based discrimination could potentially be occurring, there was no direct evidence of this.
  • There is only limited scope for using employer information networks to change employer behaviour in terms of screening applicants; employers reported limited evidence of changing behaviour in response to such information.
  • Quantitative evidence supports the thesis that individuals living in deprived areas may face disadvantages in the labour market, additional to their own personal characteristics but could not offer any more conclusive evidence of the relative contribution of ‘postcode selection’/address-based discrimination.
  • There is also a suggestion that individuals with more disadvantaging personal characteristics may gain some marginal employment/earnings advantage from living in a relatively more deprived area. However this effect is marginal in comparison to the overall disadvantage associated with living in a deprived area.

Notes to Editors:

  1. The DWP Research Report: ‘Postcode Selection? Employers’ Use of Area and Address-Based Information Shortcuts in Recruitment Decisions’ is published on 9th July 2010.
  2. The research was carried out by researchers at the Policy Research Institute, Leeds Metropolitan University and the Institute of Employment Studies, University of Warwick. The Principle Researcher was Alex Nunn.