July 2010

IZA DP No. 5093: Do Non-Cognitive Skills Help Explain the Occupational Segregation of Young People?

published in: Labour Economics, 2013, 21, 59-73

This paper investigates the role of non-cognitive skills in the occupational segregation of young workers entering the U.S. labor market. We find entry into male-dominated fields of study and male-dominated occupations are both related to the extent to which individuals believe they are intelligent and have "male" traits while entry into male-dominated occupations is also related to the willingness to work hard, impulsivity, and the tendency to avoid problems. The nature of these relationships differs for men and women, however. Non-cognitive skills (intelligence and impulsivity) also influence movement into higher-paid occupations, but in ways that are similar for men and women. On balance, non-cognitive skills provide an important, though incomplete, explanation for segregation in the fields that young men and women study as well as in the occupations in which they are employed.