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Socially-embedded investments: Explaining gender differences in job-specific skills


  • Javier G. Polavieja

    () (IMDEA)


Gender-differences in post-schooling skill investments play a central role in stratification processes. Yet little research has been devoted to explaining how these differences come about. This paperhelps to fill this gap by proposing and testing a job-investment model with social-interaction effects that melds substantive ideas of sociology and economics. Firms use strategic compensation profiles in order to protect their job-specific skill investments and this shifts the weight of the investment decision to the supply side. Employees consider the tenure-reward profiles of different job-specific investment options and chose rationally on the basis of their expected survival probabilities in each of them. Given uncertainty, actors are likely to inform their job-survival expectations by observing their social context. Three different forms of social influence are distinguished: social-learning,social norms and role identification. It is further argued that social influences on job-survival expectations can be identified empirically by blocking individuals\' work and family preferences. Several hypotheses are derived and tested to a subsample of approximately 2,700 young single wage-earners nested in 261 different European regions and 24 different European countries. Results show that young women\'s job-investment decisions are significantly correlated with 1) the social visibility of women in highly specialized jobs in the preceding generation; 2) the proportion of men who do housework in their potential marriage markets, and 3) the existing fertility norms.

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  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:imd:wpaper:wp2010-12

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    Cited by:

    1. Emily Murphy & Daniel Oesch, 2015. "The Feminization of Occupations and Change in Wages: A Panel Analysis of Britain, Germany and Switzerland," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 731, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    2. Uhrig, S.C. Noah & Watson, Nicole, 2014. "The impact of measurement error on wage decompositions: evidence from the British Household Panel Survey and the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey," ISER Working Paper Series 2014-24, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    3. repec:dem:demres:v:37:y:2017:i:56 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Javier G. Polavieja & Lucinda Platt, 2010. "Girls like pink: Explaining sex-typed occupational aspirations amongst young children," Working Papers 2010-19, Instituto Madrileño de Estudios Avanzados (IMDEA) Ciencias Sociales.
    5. Javier Polavieja & Lucinda Platt, 2012. "Nurse or Mechanic? The Role of Parental Socialization and Children's Personality in the Formation of Sex-Typed Occupational Aspirations," DoQSS Working Papers 12-10, Department of Quantitative Social Science - UCL Institute of Education, University College London.

    More about this item


    gender; job-specific investments; social interactions; strategic compensation; social learning; social norms; role identification; prefrences; european social survey;

    JEL classification:

    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects
    • M53 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Training
    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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