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Risky Business – The Role of Individual Risk Attitudes in Occupational Choice

  • Ingo E. Isphording


This study analyzes the relationship of individual risk attitudes and occupational sorting with respect to occupational earnings risk. By using the German Mikrozensus, a precise measure for earnings risk is computed as the occupation-wide standard deviation of wages. Following the procedure proposed by Bonin (2007), this earnings risk measure is used as dependent variable in cross-sectional and panel data estimations using the SOEP data of 2004 and 2006, including a measure of the individual willingness to take risks. The significant relationship in cross-sectional analyses vanishes when controlling for unobserved heterogeneity. Cross-sectional results seem to be driven by the correlation of unobserved ability and willingness to take risks, and are potentially biased by an attenuation bias due to unstable risk preferences. This study contributes to the existing literature by showing the importance of controlling for unobserved heterogeneity and instability of attitudes when examing the effects of personality traits in labor market decisions.

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Paper provided by Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen in its series Ruhr Economic Papers with number 0187.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:rwi:repape:0187
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  1. David Powell & Hui Shan, 2012. "Income Taxes, Compensating Differentials, and Occupational Choice: How Taxes Distort the Wage-Amenity Decision," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 224-47, February.
  2. Bonin, Holger & Dohmen, Thomas & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David & Sunde, Uwe, 2007. "Cross-sectional earnings risk and occupational sorting: The role of risk attitudes," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(6), pages 926-937, December.
  3. Parker,Simon C., 2006. "The Economics of Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521030632, November.
  4. Caliendo, Marco & Fossen, Frank M. & Kritikos, Alexander S., 2006. "Risk Attitudes of Nascent Entrepreneurs: New Evidence from an Experimentally-Validated Survey," IZA Discussion Papers 2168, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Mundlak, Yair, 1978. "On the Pooling of Time Series and Cross Section Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(1), pages 69-85, January.
  6. Dohmen T.J. & Falk A., 2010. "Performance pay and multi-dimensional sorting - Productivity, preferences and gender," Research Memorandum 012, Maastricht University, Maastricht Research School of Economics of Technology and Organization (METEOR).
  7. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde & Juergen Schupp & Gert Wagner, 2005. "Individual Risk Attitudes: New Evidence from a Large, Representative, Experimentally-Validated Survey," Working Papers 2096, The Field Experiments Website.
  8. Ham, Roger & Junankar, Pramod N. (Raja) & Wells, Robert, 2009. "Occupational Choice: Personality Matters," IZA Discussion Papers 4105, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Allan G. King, 1974. "Occupational Choice, Risk Aversion, and Wealth," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 27(4), pages 586-596, July.
  10. Chevalier, Arnaud, 2002. "Just Like Daddy: The occupational choice of UK Graduates," Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2002 47, Royal Economic Society.
  11. Ekelund, Jesper & Johansson, Edvard & Jarvelin, Marjo-Riitta & Lichtermann, Dirk, 2005. "Self-employment and risk aversion--evidence from psychological test data," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(5), pages 649-659, October.
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