Erik Plug

Estimating the Effect of Personality on Male-Female Earnings

Published in: Industrial and Labor Relations Review 60 (1). (2006). 3-22. (with Gerrit Mueller )

The authors adopt the Five-Factor Model of personality structure to explore how personality affected the earnings of a large group of men and women who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957 and were re-interviewed in 1992. All five basic traits–extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience–had statistically significant positive or negative earnings effects, and together they appear to have had effects comparable to those commonly found for cognitive ability. Among men, substantial earnings advantages were associated with antagonism (the obverse of agreeableness), emotional stability (the obverse of neuroticism), and openness to experience; among women, with conscientiousness and openness to experience. Of the five traits, the evidence indicates that agreeableness had the greatest influence on gender differences in earnings: men were considerably more antagonistic (non-agreeable) than women, on average, and men alone were rewarded for that trait.

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