Journal of Business and Psychology

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 87–103 | Cite as

Who Earns More and Why? A Multiple Mediation Model from Personality to Salary

  • Daniel SpurkEmail author
  • Andrea E. Abele



The purpose of this study was to investigate multiple indirect Big Five personality influences on professionals’ annual salary while considering relevant mediators. These are the motivational variables of occupational self-efficacy and career-advancement goals, and the work status variable of contractual work hours. The motivational and work status variables were conceptualized as serial mediators (Big Five → occupational self-efficacy/career-advancement goals → contractual work hours → annual salary).


We realized a 4 year longitudinal survey study with 432 participants and three points of measurement. We assessed personality prior to the mediators and the mediators prior to annual salary.


Results showed that except for openness the other Big Five personality traits exerted indirect influences on annual salary. Career-advancement goals mediated influences of conscientiousness (+), extraversion (+), and agreeableness (−). Occupational self-efficacy mediated influences of neuroticism (–) and conscientiousness (+). Because the influence of occupational self-efficacy on annual salary was fully mediated by contractual work hours, indirect personality influences via occupational self-efficacy always included contractual work hours in a serial mediation.


These findings underline the importance of distal personality traits for career success. They give further insights into direct and indirect relationships between personality, goal content, self-efficacy beliefs, and an individual’s career progress.


Previous research predominantly investigated direct Big Five influences on salary, and it analyzed cross-sectional data. This study is one of the first to investigate multiple indirect Big Five influences on salary in a longitudinal design. The findings support process-oriented theories of personality influences on career outcomes.


Personality (Big Five) Occupational Self-efficacy Career goals Salary Longitudinal study 



The present research was supported by a grant from the Volkswagen Foundation (VW I/73 739; VW I/77 195; VW I/73 195-1) to Andrea E. Abele. We would like to thank Susanne Bruckmueller, Judith Volmer, Juliane Wagner, and Mirjam Uchronski who gave valuable comments to an earlier version of this paper. Parts of the data were presented at the 24th Annual Meeting of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, New Orleans, 2009.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Social Psychology GroupUniversity of Erlangen-NurembergErlangenGermany

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