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Girls like pink: Explaining sex-typed occupational aspirations amongst young children

Javier Polavieja () and Lucinda Platt ()
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Lucinda Platt: ISER, University of Essex & IAE-CSIC

No 2010-19, Working Papers from Instituto Madrileño de Estudios Avanzados (IMDEA) Ciencias Sociales

Abstract: There is a high degree of sex-typing in young children's occupational aspirations and this has consequences for subsequent occupational segregation. Sociologists typically attribute early sex-differences in occupational preferences to gender socialization. Yet we still know surprisingly little about the mechanisms involved in the intergenerational transmission of sex-typical preferences and there is considerable theoretical controversy regarding the role of individual agency in the process of preference formation. This study analyzes the determinants of sex-typed occupational aspirations amongst British children aged between 11 and 15. We specify different mechanisms involved in the transmission of sex-typical preferences and propose an innovative definition of individual agency that is anchored in observable psychological traits linked to self-direction. This allows us to perform a simultaneous test of socialization and agency predictors of occupational sex-typing. We find that parental influences on occupational preferences operate mainly through three distinctive channels: 1) the effect that parental socio-economic resources have on the scope of children‘s occupational aspirations, 2) children's direct imitation of parental occupations, and 3) children's learning of sex-typed roles via the observation of parental behavior. We also find a strong net effect of children's own psychological predispositions —self-esteem in particular— on the incidence of sex-typical occupational preferences. Yet large differences in the occupational aspirations of girls and boys remain unexplained.

Keywords: Gender segregation; occupational aspirations; children; socialization; agency; personality traits; mechanisms; british household panel survey (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J13 J16 J24 Z13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2010-10-12
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-lab
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