Who gets a job?

Which factors determine unemployment duration for the individual?  It’s not just objective macroeconomic conditions:

For our econometric duration analysis, we use the well-accepted taxonomy “Big Five” to classify personality traits. Based on individual unemployment data taken from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) our empirical findings reveal that the personality traits Conscientiousness and Neuroticism have a strong impact on the instantaneous probability of finding a job, where the former has a positive effect and the latter has a negative effect.

Here is more.  Here is one version of the paper.

These results do not discriminate against all theories of nominal wage stickiness, but they may discriminate against some matching models which suggest that the employer and worker never come together in the first place.  They also discriminate against models which suggest the employer won’t consider making any lower wage offer to any group of workers.  Under one alternative option, there is a chance for a mutually beneficial transaction, if the laborers can demonstrate that they will be flexible and productive and non-resentful.  Another alternative model (and to me less plausible) on the table is that the workers get some offer in any case, but the more neurotic workers do not take it.  In any case, labor quality very much matters.


I feel really special being the first to comment, but I am shocked by the findings. Imagine that character and personality have anything to do with finding a job.

Tyler, as Rich Berger's comment makes clear it's not wise to circulate research papers without discussing the variables and how they are measured. The statistical analysis of the consequences of personality as measured by the Big Five traits is now popular among economists and other social scientists, and indeed many psychologists are happy that they can claim that there are five broad dimensions along which all differ, and which cause us to behave in certain ways rather than other ways to the point that they constitute the best statistical predictors of life outcomes that we have (D. Nettle, Personality, p. 234/5). But as Nettle discusses in the last chapter of his excellent survey of the big five, this view of personality leads to some difficult questions. Some are related to free will and I strongly recommend to read J. Tierney's article in today NYT Science Section. For economists and social scientists in general, some relevant questions are related to the underlying assumption that the traits are unchangeable. One may argue that an individual's personality is defined by the time that he/she becomes an adult. but once you look at what is behind each of big five broad dimensions, it is clear that they can change significantly during adulthood. So please any time you link to this type of research papers, I hope you take some time to discuss at least the exogenous variable.

Mental health is an important thing.

Anybody unemployed for longer than 6 months should consider seeking therapy, IMHO. Losing is a job, itself, is a traumatic experience. And there might be underlying mental health issues.

Hmm therapy while unemployed eh? Sounds entirely reasonable and affordable.

The government could fund it, along with retraining, if some people weren't ideologically committed to opposing government spending even when the government is spending on something useful.

This also demonstrates the futility and injustice of blaming the unemployed for being unemployed. Neurotic people can't choose to be less neurotic any more than short people can choose to be taller or unattractive people can choose to be more attractive (both of which also affect success in job hunting).

As E. Barandiaran suggested, personality types might be less fixed than some think.

But it's hard to become less neurotic when your unemployed.

Unattractive people CAN choose to be more attractive.
Hairstyles, clothing choice, diet and exercise. What do you think people do these things for?
Now I'll admit that there is a lot of difficulty for many people in learning how to do all of these factors. After all, there is very little agreement these days as to what "attractive" means in terms of hair or clothing, and no obvious place to go to learn about them. And diet and exercise are racked with disagreements and disputes about the best way to go. But it doesn't mean that therefore they are impossible.

Why do you assume that neurotic (I assume they're using the clinical definition) automatically results in an employee being resentful?

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