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Girls like Pink: Explaining Sex-Typed Occupational Aspirations amongst Young Children

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  • Javier Polavieja

    ()

  • Lucinda Platt

    ()

Abstract

There is a high degree of sex-typing in young children's occupational aspirations and this has consequences for subsequent occupational segregation. Sociologists typically attribute early sex- differences in occupational preferences to gender socialization. Yet we still know surprisingly little about the mechanisms involved in the intergenerational transmission of sex-typical preferences and there is considerable theoretical controversy regarding the role of individual agency in the process of preference formation. This study analyzes the determinants of sex-typed occupational aspirations amongst British children aged between 11 and 15. We specify different mechanisms involved in the transmission of sex-typical preferences and propose an innovative definition of individual agency that is anchored in observable psychological traits linked to self-direction. This allows us to perform a simultaneous test of socialization and agency predictors of occupational sex-typing. We find that parental influences on occupational preferences operate mainly through three distinctive channels: 1) the effect that parental socio-economic resources have on the scope of children's occupational aspirations, 2) children's direct imitation of parental occupations, and 3) children's learning of sex- typed roles via the observation of parental behavior. We also find a strong net effect of children's own psychological predispositions -self-esteem in particular- on the incidence of sex-typical occupational preferences. Yet large differences in the occupational aspirations of girls and boys remain unexplained.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC) in its series UFAE and IAE Working Papers with number 844.10.

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Length: 42
Date of creation: 14 Oct 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:aub:autbar:844.10

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Related research

Keywords: Gender Segregation; Occupational Aspirations; Children; Socialization; Agency; Personality Traits; Mechanisms; British Household Panel Survey;

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  1. Yona Rubinstein & James J. Heckman, 2001. "The Importance of Noncognitive Skills: Lessons from the GED Testing Program," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 145-149, May.
  2. Goldin, Claudia & Polachek, Solomon, 1987. "Residual Differences by Sex: Perspectives on the Gender Gap in Earnings," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(2), pages 143-51, May.
  3. James Heckman & Pedro Carneiro, 2003. "Human Capital Policy," NBER Working Papers 9495, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Corcoran, Mary E & Courant, Paul N, 1985. "Sex Role Socialization and Labor Market Outcomes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(2), pages 275-78, May.
  5. Polachek, Solomon William, 1981. "Occupational Self-Selection: A Human Capital Approach to Sex Differences in Occupational Structure," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 63(1), pages 60-69, February.
  6. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," NBER Working Papers 12006, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Javier G. Polavieja, 2010. "Socially-embedded investments: Explaining gender differences in job-specific skills," Working Papers 2010-12, Instituto Madrileño de Estudios Avanzados (IMDEA) Ciencias Sociales.
  8. Nandi, Alita & Nicoletti, Cheti, 2009. "Explaining personality pay gaps in the UK," ISER Working Paper Series 2009-22, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  9. Melissa Osborne & Herbert Gintis & Samuel Bowles, 2001. "The Determinants of Earnings: A Behavioral Approach," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(4), pages 1137-1176, December.
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Cited by:
  1. Rampino, Tina & Taylor, Mark P., 2013. "Gender differences in educational aspirations and attitudes," ISER Working Paper Series 2013-15, Institute for Social and Economic Research.

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