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Nurse or Mechanic? Explaining Sex-Typed Occupational Aspirations amongst Children

  • Javier Polavieja

    ()

    (IMDEA-Social Sciences Institute.)

  • Lucinda Platt

    ()

    (Institute of Education, University of London)

There is a high degree of sex-typing in young children's occupational aspirations and this has consequences for adult occupational segregation. Yet we still know surprisingly little about the mechanisms involved in the formation of sex-typical preferences and there is considerable theoretical controversy regarding the relative role of parental socialization and individual agency in this process. This study analyzes the determinants of sex-typed occupational aspirations amongst British children aged between 11 and 15. We develop a model of parental socialization and test for different channels and mechanisms involved in the transmission of sex-typical preferences. We also propose an innovative definition of personal agency that is anchored in observable psychological traits linked to self-direction. 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 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 sex-differences in occupational aspirations remain unexplained.

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Paper provided by Department of Quantitative Social Science - UCL Institute of Education, University College London in its series DoQSS Working Papers with number 11-08.

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Date of creation: 05 Dec 2011
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Handle: RePEc:qss:dqsswp:1108
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