AN ECONOMIC ANALYSIS OF IDENTITY AND CAREER CHOICE

Authors

  • MARIA K. HUMLUM,

    1. Humlum: Research Associate, AKF, Nyropsgade 37, DK-1602 Copenhagen V. Phone +45 4333 3487. E-mail: mkh@akf.dk
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  • KRISTIN J. KLEINJANS,

    1. Kleinjans: Assistant Professor of Economics, Mihaylo College of Business, California State University, Fullerton CA 92834. E-mail: kkleinjans@fullerton.edu.
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  • HELENA S. NIELSEN

    1. Nielsen: Professor, School of Economics and Management, Aarhus University, Bartholins Allé 10, DK-8000 Aarhus C. Phone +45 8942 1594. E-mail: hnielsen@econ.au.dk
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    • We thank the Danish Strategic Research Council, project: ‘Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital’ for financial support. We appreciate comments from the editor, Peter Arcidiacono, two anonymous referees, Allan Wurtz as well as comments from seminar participants at Aarhus University, AKF, ASB, DGPE and EALE. The usual disclaimer applies.


Abstract

Standard economic models tend to be more specific about pecuniary payoffs than nonpecuniary payoffs to education. Based on the ideas of Akerlof and Kranton, we consider a model of career choice and identity where individuals derive nonpecuniary identity payoffs. Using factor analysis on a range of attitude questions, we find two factors related to identity (career orientation and social orientation), which are important for planned educational choices and for observed gender differences. The implication is that policy makers and institutions of higher education need to focus on identity-related issues rather than just improved financial incentives if they aim at attracting high-ability youths to certain careers. (JEL I21, J24)

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