Journal of Labor Research

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 358–372 | Cite as

The Mediation Effect of Education on Self-Esteem and Wages

  • Robert GirtzEmail author


Research suggests a positive relationship between adolescent self-esteem and adult wages. Drawing data from the 1979 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, I refine the empirical relationship between self-esteem, wages, and education. The effect of self-esteem on wages is positive and significant when estimating models for the entire sample. This effect, however, becomes statistically insignificant when estimating models for subsamples sorted by educational level. In addition, mediation models suggest that roughly one-third of the total effect of self-esteem on wages is mediated by education. In total, these results indicate that there is a significantly less pronounced direct effect of self-esteem on wages than previously found in the literature. A substantial portion of the effect self-esteem has on wages occurs through its effect on educational attainment.


Self-esteem Personality Human capital Education Mediation 

Jel Classification

I20 J01 J24 J30 



I would like to thank Mark Owens, Joachim Zietz, Christian Brown, Josh Hill, and E. Anthon Eff for helpful assistance, comments, suggestions, and editing related to this article. All errors are my own.


  1. Aroian LA (1944) The probability function of the product of two normally distributed variables. Ann Math Stat 18:265–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baron RM, Kenny DA (1986) The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. J Pers Soc Psychol 51:1173–1182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Benabou R, Tirole J (2002) Self-confidence and personal motivation. Q J Econ 117(3):871–915CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blackburn MK (2004) The role of test scores in explaining race and gender differences in wages. Econ Educ Rev 23(6):555–576CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brockner J (1988) Self-esteem at work. Lexington Books, LexingtonGoogle Scholar
  6. Cebi M (2007) Locus of control and human capital investment revisited. J Hum Resour 42(4):919–932Google Scholar
  7. Cunha F, Heckman J (2008) Formulating, identifying and estimating the technology of cognitive and noncognitive skill formation. J Hum Resour 43(4):738–782CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Drago F (2011) Self-esteem and earnings. J Econ Psychol 32(3):480–488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dweck C, Leggett E (1988) A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychol Rev 95(2):256–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Edwards JR, Lambert LS (2007) Methods for integrating moderation and mediation: a general analytical framework using moderated path analysis. Psychol Methods 12(1):1–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Girtz R (2012) The effects of personality traits on wages: a matching approach. Labour: Rev Labour Econ Ind Relat 26(4):455–471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Goldsmith A, Veum J, Darity W (1997) The impact of psychological and human capital on wages. Econ Inq 35(4):815–829CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Goleman, Daniel (1995) Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ. New York, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. Goodman LA (1960) On the exact variance of products. J Am Stat Assoc 55:708–713CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Graham C, Eggers A, Sukhtankar S (2004) Does happiness Pay? an exploration based on panel data from Russia. J Econ Behav Organ 55(3):319–342Google Scholar
  16. Heckman J (1979) Sample selection bias as a specification error. Econometrica 47(1):153–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Heckman J, Stixrud J, Urzua S (2006) The effects of cognitive and noncognitive abilities on labor market outcomes and social behavior. J Labor Econ 24(3):411–482CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Krueger A, Schkade D (2008) The reliability of subjective well-being measures. J Public Econ 92(8–9):1833–1845CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lindqvist E, Vestman R (2011) The labor market returns to cognitive and noncognitive ability: evidence from the swedish enlistment. Am Econ J: Appl Econ 3(1):101–128Google Scholar
  20. Mincer J (1970) The distribution of labor incomes: a survey with special reference to the human capital approach. J Econ Lit 8(1):26Google Scholar
  21. Murnane R, John Willett M, Braatz J, Duhaldeborde Y (2011) Do different dimensions of male high school Students’ skills predict labor market success a decade later? evidence from the NLSY. Econ Educ Rev 20(4):311–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Preacher K. J. and G. J. Leonardelli (2010) Calculation for the Sobel Test. An interactive calculation tool for mediation tests. Retrieved March 1, 2014Google Scholar
  23. Rosenberg M (1965) Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, New JerseyGoogle Scholar
  24. Santos-Pinto L, Sobel J (2005) A model of positive self-image in subjective assessment. Am Econ Rev 95(5):1368–1402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Segal C (2008) Classroom behavior. J Hum Resour 43(4):783–814CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Sobel ME (1982) Asymptotic intervals for indirect effects in structural equations models. In: Leinhart S (ed) Sociological methodology 1982. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, pp 290–312Google Scholar
  27. Waddell G (2006) Labor-market consequences of poor attitude and Low self-esteem in youth. Econ Inq 44(1):69–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Wylie, Ruth (1979) The Self-Concept, Vol 2: Theory and Research on Selected Topics, Revised Edition., Lincoln, NebraskaGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of BusinessBlack Hills State UniversitySpearfishUSA

Personalised recommendations