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Personality and labor force participation across the life course: A longitudinal study of women's careers


The influences on and consequences of women's labor force experience are examined using data from members of the Berkeley longitudinal studies born between 1920 and 1929. In adolescence, these women were overwhelmingly oriented toward marriage and family rather than career, yet more than two-thirds eventually spent substantial time in the paid labor force. Consistent labor force participation was lower for women who had been attractive, outgoing, feminine, self-confident, and status seeking in their high school years. High labor force participation, however, was associated with increases in self-confidence, status seeking, assertiveness, and intellectual investment between adolescence and later adulthood. The demographic correlates of labor force participation changed over the life course: as family responsibilities diminished in the later middle years, both family composition and husband's occupational status decreased in importance, while the importance of a woman's own education level and her husband's expected retirement income increased.

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Correspondence to John A. Clausen.

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Clausen, J.A., Gilens, M. Personality and labor force participation across the life course: A longitudinal study of women's careers. Sociol Forum 5, 595–618 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01115393

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Key words

  • women
  • labor force participation
  • personality
  • longitudinal study
  • marriage