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Occupational Choice and the Spirit of Capitalism

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  • Matthias Doepke
  • Fabrizio Zilibotti

Abstract

The British Industrial Revolution triggered a socioeconomic transformation whereby the landowning aristocracy was replaced by industrial capitalists rising from the middle classes as the economically dominant group. We propose a theory of preference formation under financial market imperfections that can account for this pattern. Parents shape their children's preferences in response to economic incentives. Middle-class families in occupations requiring effort, skill, and experience develop patience and a work ethic, whereas upper-class families relying on rental income cultivate a refined taste for leisure. These class-specific attitudes, which are rooted in the nature of preindustrial professions, become key determinants of success once industrialization transforms the economic landscape.

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  • Matthias Doepke & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2008. "Occupational Choice and the Spirit of Capitalism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(2), pages 747-793.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:123:y:2008:i:2:p:747-793.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1162/qjec.2008.123.2.747
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    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • N2 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General

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