Does Having a Dysfunctional Personality Hurt Your Career? Axis II Personality Disorders and Labor Market Outcomes





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    •  The authors’ affiliations are, respectively, Professor, Departments of Medicine and Health Services, University of California Los Angeles, E-mail:; Graduate Student, Economics Department, Cornell University; Health Economics Research Group, Department of Sociology, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, and Department of Economics, University of Miami. Financial assistance for this study was provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (R01 AA13167, R01 AA015695) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01 DA018645). We gratefully acknowledge Adele Kirk for her technical support. We are also indebted to William Russell, Michelle Mirkin, and Debbie Marshall for editorial and administrative assistance. Earlier versions of the paper benefited from excellent feedback from seminar participants at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Miami.


Despite recent interest in how psychiatric disorders affect work outcomes, little is known about the role of personality disorders (PDs), which are poorly understood yet prevalent (15%) and impairing. We used nationally representative data for 12,457 men and 16,061 women to examine associations of PDs with any employment, full-time employment, chronic unemployment, being fired or laid off, and having trouble with a boss or co-worker. Antisocial, paranoid, and obsessive-compulsive PDs demonstrated the broadest patterns of associations with adverse outcomes. Findings suggest that PDs may have implications for the productivity of co-workers as well as that of the disordered employees themselves.