Here is a new paper from Joy Buchanan, Emergent Ventures winner:
Having a larger high-skill workforce is good for economic productivity, so it is useful to understand how workers self-select into high-paying technology jobs. This study examines how workers on the margin decide whether to pursue tech jobs, including a precise control for the opportunity cost of time. The most important determinant of the reservation wage for college students to do computer programming is whether they enjoy it or not. Another subjective influence, whether subjects like math or not, predicts self-confidence. Most students, including females and minorities, are willing to learn a new computer programming language, for a sufficiently high wage. Neither randomly assigned encouragement nor extra information on the programming task increases willingness to participate or increases confidence.
I often say that economics is too often solely the study of incentives, whereas real world problems end up solved because entrepreneurs opt for a potent mix of selection and incentives. Selection is often the more important part of that brew. Get people doing what they like, and you cannot boil a stone into a turnip. It is also noteworthy from the paper that a lot of people really do not seem to like programming.