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Girls like pink: Explaining sex-typed occupational aspirations amongst young children

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  • Javier G. Polavieja

    () (IMDEA Social Science)

  • Lucinda Platt

    () (ISER, University of Essex & IAE-CSIC)

Abstract

There is a high degree of sex-typing in young children's occupational aspirations and this has consequences for subsequent occupational segregation. Sociologists typically attribute early sex-differences in occupational preferences to gender socialization. Yet we still know surprisingly little about the mechanisms involved in the intergenerational transmission of sex-typical preferences and there is considerable theoretical controversy regarding the role of individual agency in the process of preference formation. This study analyzes the determinants of sex-typed occupational aspirations amongst British children aged between 11 and 15. We specify different mechanisms involved in the transmission of sex-typical preferences and propose an innovative definition of individual agency that is anchored in observable psychological traits linked to self-direction. This allows us to perform a simultaneous test of socialization and agency predictors of occupational sex-typing. We find that parental influences on occupational preferences operate mainly through three distinctive channels: 1) the effect that parental socio-economic resources have on the scope of children‘s occupational aspirations, 2) children's direct imitation of parental occupations, and 3) children's learning of sex-typed roles via the observation of parental behavior. We also find a strong net effect of children's own psychological predispositions —self-esteem in particular— on the incidence of sex-typical occupational preferences. Yet large differences in the occupational aspirations of girls and boys remain unexplained.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:imd:wpaper:wp2010-19
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alita Nandi & Cheti Nicoletti, 2014. "Explaining personality pay gaps in the UK," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(26), pages 3131-3150, September.
    2. 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.
    3. Goldin, Claudia & Polachek, Solomon, 1987. "Residual Differences by Sex: Perspectives on the Gender Gap in Earnings," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(2), pages 143-151, May.
    4. Carneiro, Pedro & Heckman, James J., 2003. "Human Capital Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 821, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 411-482, July.
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    7. Polachek, Solomon William, 1981. "Occupational Self-Selection: A Human Capital Approach to Sex Differences in Occupational Structure," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 63(1), pages 60-69, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Rampino, Tina & Taylor, Mark P., 2013. "Gender differences in educational aspirations and attitudes," ISER Working Paper Series 2013-15, Institute for Social and Economic Research.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Gender segregation; occupational aspirations; children; socialization; agency; personality traits; mechanisms; british household panel survey;

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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