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How Cognitive Ability and Personality Traits Affect Geographic Mobility


  • Aline Bütikofer
  • Giovanni Peri


Noncognitive characteristics and personality traits can be strong predictors of economic and social outcomes of individuals. In this paper, using data on cognitive ability and psychologist-assessed “sociability” and “adaptability” linked to administrative data for the male 1932–33 birth cohort in Norway, we analyze how these three characteristics affect men’s probability to migrate across labor markets. We find that higher adaptability, the capacity to adjust to new environments and situations, and higher cognitive ability are significant predictors of the probability to migrate. Adaptability is a particularly strong migration predictor for individuals with low cognitive ability or low socioeconomic background.

Suggested Citation

  • Aline Bütikofer & Giovanni Peri, 2021. "How Cognitive Ability and Personality Traits Affect Geographic Mobility," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 39(2), pages 559-595.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlabec:doi:10.1086/710189
    DOI: 10.1086/710189

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    Cited by:

    1. Edwards, Rebecca & Gibson, Rachael & Harmon, Colm & Schurer, Stefanie, 2022. "First-in-their-family students at university: Can non-cognitive skills compensate for social origin?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 91(C).
    2. Azmat, Ghazala & Kaufmann, Katja Maria & Özdemir, Yasemin, 2023. "Socioemotional Development during Adolescence: Evidence from a Large Macro Shock," IZA Discussion Papers 16187, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Bertoni, Marco & Chattopadhyay, Debdeep & Gu, Yuanyuan, 2023. "Medical Brain Drain – Assessing the Role of Job Attributes and Individual Traits," IZA Discussion Papers 16243, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. Langella, Monica & Manning, Alan, 2022. "Residential mobility and unemployment in the UK," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(C).
    5. Nakamura, Nobuyuki & Suzuki, Aya, 2022. "How Altruism Works during a Pandemic: Examining the Roles of Financial Support and Degrees of Individual Altruism on International Remittance," 2022 Annual Meeting, July 31-August 2, Anaheim, California 322073, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    6. Adamecz-Völgyi, Anna & Shure, Nikki, 2022. "The gender gap in top jobs – The role of overconfidence," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(C).
    7. Jorge González Chapela, 2022. "A Binary Choice Model with Sample Selection and Covariate-Related Misclassification," Econometrics, MDPI, vol. 10(2), pages 1-20, March.
    8. Damiano Argan and Anatole Cheyssson, 2023. "Plurilingualism and Brain Drain: Unexpected Consequences of Access to Foreign TV," Economics Working Papers EUI ECO 2023/01, European University Institute.
    9. Ghazala Azmat & Katja Maria Kaufmann & Yasemin Özdemir, 2022. "Gender Differences in Adolescents' Socioemotional Development and their Later Economic Consequences," SciencePo Working papers Main hal-03918118, HAL.
    10. E. S. Lezin, 2023. "Assessment of the directions and causes of migration in the modern world," Entrepreneur’s Guide, JSC “Publishing Agency “Science and Educationâ€, vol. 16(3).

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