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Nurse or Mechanic? The Role of Parental Socialization and Children's Personality in the Formation of Sex-Typed Occupational Aspirations

  • Javier Polavieja

    ()

    (IMDEA-Social Sciences Institute)

  • Lucinda Platt

    ()

    (Department of Quantitative Social Science, Institute of Education, University of London)

This study investigates the role of parental socialization and children’s agency in the formation of sex-typed occupational preferences using data for British children aged between 11 and 15. We anchor agency in observable psychological attributes associated with children's capacity to act in the face of constraints. We focus on two such attributes, motivation and self-esteem. Our findings identify two main sources of parental influence: 1) parental socio-economic resources, which affect children's occupational ambition, and 2) parental sex-typical behaviors, from which children learn which occupations are appropriate for each sex. We find, additionally, that girls with high motivation and both girls and boys with high self-esteem are less likely to aspire to sex-typical occupations, net of inherited traits and parental characteristics. Motivation and self-esteem help girls to aim higher in the occupational ladder, which automatically reduces their levels of sex-typicality. In the case of boys, however, self-esteem reduces sex-typicality at all levels of the aspired occupational distribution. This suggests that boys with high self-esteem are better equipped to contradict the existing social norms regarding sex-typical behavior. The implications of our findings are discussed.

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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 12-10.

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Date of creation: 04 Dec 2012
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Handle: RePEc:qss:dqsswp:1210
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Quantitative Social Science. UCL IOE, 20 Bedford Way London WC1H 0AL
Phone: (44) (0)20 7612 6654. Eliminate (44) and add (0) if calling from inside the UK. Add (44) and eliminate (0) if calling from abroad.
Fax: (44) (0)20 7612 6686
Web page: http://www.ioe.ac.uk/research/departments/qss/35445.html

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  1. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," NBER Working Papers 12006, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Samuel Bowles, 1998. "Endogenous Preferences: The Cultural Consequences of Markets and Other Economic Institutions," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 75-111, March.
  3. Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, 2002. "The Inheritance of Inequality," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 3-30, Summer.
  4. 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.
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