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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.

Suggested Citation

  • 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. S. C. Noah Uhrig & Nicole Watson, 2020. "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," Sociological Methods & Research, , vol. 49(1), pages 43-78, February.
    2. 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).
    3. Daniel Oesch & Oliver Lipps & Patrick McDonald, 2017. "The wage penalty for motherhood: Evidence on discrimination from panel data and a survey experiment for Switzerland," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 37(56), pages 1793-1824.
    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.
    6. Platt, Lucinda & Polavieja, Javier, 2016. "Saying and doing gender: intergenerational transmission of attitudes towards the sexual division of labour," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 67302, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

    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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