Technical Report Is Being Agreeable a Key to Success or Failure in the Labor Market?

Lee, Sun Youn  ,  Ohtake, Fumio

960pp.1 - 23 , 2016-02 , The Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University
The aim of this study was to elucidate how individual differences in noncognitive skills, as measured by the Big Five personality traits, explain variation in labor market outcomes. Japanese and U.S. survey data were analyzed to examine the associations between personality traits and later outcomes in the two countries. We focused on country-specific, noncognitive determinants of annual income, which were found in agreeableness among male workers. Agreeableness seemed to contribute to annual income in Japanese men, whereas it acted as a penalty in American men. In both countries, higher agreeableness tended to translate into higher income for those working at large companies (1,000 employees or more) compared with those working at small companies. Although agreeableness was rewarded by income, it did not necessarily lead to career advancement. Furthermore, the agreeableness premium was still observed even after controlling for labor-related variables such as occupational choice and working hours. This suggests that agreeableness might act as part of a skill set that directly improves job performance and productivity at large companies, rather than acting indirectly through career advancement or occupational choice.

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