The Labor Market Trifecta: Race, Gender, and Personality

Publication Date

April 2019


Joyce Jacobsen


Economics (ECON)


English (United States)


Labor market outcomes, choices, and how they differ by race and gender have been a major controversial topic in recent years. Labor economists have been seeking plausible explanations for these gender and racial differences in choices (such as college major and occupation) which eventually affect income and other labor market outcomes. This paper addresses the effects of personality traits, both controlling for race and gender and interacting with race and gender, on labor market-related choices and outcomes. Specifically, I consider college major, occupation, and income as outcomes. In this study, the direct, race-interacted effects, and gender-interacted effects of personality are modelled on labor market choices and outcomes, using both conventional regression and machine learning techniques. Results show that many traits have significant effects on our choice of college major and occupation as well as quantifiable effects on income. Furthermore, many of these traits vary by race and gender. However, personality trait effects on choice of college major and occupation are more significant than effects on income, consistent with a framework in which people select jobs that are most suited with their personality. For example, neuroticism is more negatively related to income for men than women, suggesting that some personality traits, and their return in the workplace, cannot be completely offset by their ideal choice of occupation. The analysis is extended using machine learning techniques as a different way of modeling labor market outcomes highlights the intersectional relationship between gender, race, and personality traits, as a means to provide additional information about cluster of traits through inferential statistical analyses. In conclusion, race, gender, and personality do affect one’s choice of major and occupation, which eventually impacts their income.

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