April 2020

IZA DP No. 13123: Macroeconomic Conditions When Young Shape Job Preferences for Life

Preferences for monetary and non-monetary job attributes are important for understanding workers' motivation and the organization of work. Little is known, however, about how those job preferences are formed. We study how macroeconomic conditions when young shape workers' job preferences for the rest of their life. Using variation in income-per-capita across US regions and over time since the 1920s, we find that job preferences vary in systematic ways with macroeconomic conditions. Recessions create cohorts of workers who give higher priority to income, whereas booms make cohorts care more about job meaning, for the rest of their life.