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Cross-sectional earnings risk and occupational sorting: The role of risk attitudes

  • Bonin, Holger
  • Dohmen, Thomas
  • Falk, Armin
  • Huffman, David
  • Sunde, Uwe

This paper investigates whether risk preferences explain how individuals are sorted into occupations with different earnings variability. We exploit data from the German Socio-Economic Panel, which contains a subjective assessment of willingness to take risks whose behavioral relevance has been validated in previous work. As a measure of earnings risk, we use the cross-sectional variation in earnings that is left unexplained by human capital in Mincerian wage regressions. By relating earnings risk to the measure of individual risk preference, our evidence shows that individuals with low willingness to take risks are more likely to be sorted into occupations with low earnings risk. This pattern is found regardless of the level of occupation categories, region, gender and labor market experience. We also find that risk preferences are significant determinant of wages in a Mincer regression, illustrating the importance of preferences and attitudes in addition to more standard regressors.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Labour Economics.

Volume (Year): 14 (2007)
Issue (Month): 6 (December)
Pages: 926-937

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Handle: RePEc:eee:labeco:v:14:y:2007:i:6:p:926-937
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/labeco

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  1. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde & Jürgen Schupp & Gert G. Wagner, 2005. "Individual Risk Attitudes: New Evidence from a Large, Representative, Experimentally-Validated Survey," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 511, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  2. Boyan Jovanovic & Yaw Nyarko, 1996. "Stepping Stone Mobility," NBER Working Papers 5651, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Dohmen, Thomas & Falk, Armin, 2006. "Performance Pay and Multi-dimensional Sorting: Productivity, Preferences and Gender," IZA Discussion Papers 2001, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Fitzenberger, Bernd & Kunze, Astrid, 2005. "Vocational Training and Gender: Wages and Occupational Mobility among young Workers," ZEW Discussion Papers 05-66, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  5. Glenn Harrison & John List, 2004. "Field experiments," Artefactual Field Experiments 00058, The Field Experiments Website.
  6. Bonin, Holger & Dohmen, Thomas J. & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David & Sunde, Uwe, 2007. "Cross-sectional earnings risk and occupational sorting: The role of risk attitudes," Munich Reprints in Economics 20204, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  7. Robert B. Barsky & Miles S. Kimball & F. Thomas Juster & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1995. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Working Papers 5213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  9. Cramer, J. S. & Hartog, J. & Jonker, N. & Van Praag, C. M., 2002. "Low risk aversion encourages the choice for entrepreneurship: an empirical test of a truism," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 29-36, May.
  10. Caliendo, Marco & Fossen, Frank M. & Kritikos, Alexander S., 2006. "Risk Attitudes of Nascent Entrepreneurs: New Evidence from an Experimentally Validated Survey," Discussion Papers 252, European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder), Department of Business Administration and Economics.
  11. Joop Hartog & Erik Plug & Luis Diaz Serrano & Jose Vieira, 2003. "Risk compensation in wages – a replication," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 28(3), pages 639-647, July.
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  15. Bas Jacobs & Joop Hartog & Wim Vijverberg, 2009. "Self-selection bias in estimated wage premiums for earnings risk," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 37(2), pages 271-286, October.
  16. Ekelund, Jesper & Johansson, Edvard & Jarvelin, Marjo-Riitta & Lichtermann, Dirk, 2005. "Self-employment and risk aversion--evidence from psychological test data," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(5), pages 649-659, October.
  17. Thomas DeLeire & Helen Levy, 2004. "Worker Sorting and the Risk of Death on the Job," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(4), pages 925-954, October.
  18. Brown, Charles, 1980. "Equalizing Differences in the Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 94(1), pages 113-34, February.
  19. Hwang, Hae-shin & Reed, W Robert & Hubbard, Carlton, 1992. "Compensating Wage Differentials and Unobserved Productivity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(4), pages 835-58, August.
  20. Moore, Michael J, 1995. "Unions, Employment Risks, and Market Provision of Employment Risk Differentials," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 10(1), pages 57-70, January.
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