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Working for nothing: personality, time allocation and earnings in the UK.

Della Giusta, Marina and Jewell, Sarah (2018): Working for nothing: personality, time allocation and earnings in the UK.

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Abstract

The UK has historically had some of the longest average working hours in the EU (Hogart et al, 2007), and the TUC reports that unpaid overtime is rife in the UK labour market (TUC, 2017). Supply side explanations have instead focused on peer pressure and status races, preference for work over family, and strong work identity (Hochschild, 1997; Besley and Gathak, 2008; Bryan and Nandi, 2015). Here we focus on personality traits, which have been studied in connection with occupational choice, labour market outcomes, participation, job performance, and absenteeism, and investigate their relationship with working hours. We make use of all seven available waves of the Understanding Society Survey and ask in particular whether certain personality types are more systematically associated with long working hours and experiencing time pressures and whether there are personality premia and penalties across the wage distribution. We find that particular personality types are more prone to working longer hours and experiencing time pressures. These effects are significant and bigger than some of the conventional variables such as human capital and, for women, the presence of small children. Whilst the effect of most personality traits is consistent with a rational theory of time allocation, we also find that neuroticism is instead associated with inconsistent behaviour (working fewer paid and more unpaid hours). In terms of personality payoffs, we find that neuroticism carries a penalty across the wage distribution, conscientiousness pays off (and more so at the top for men), extraversion pays off for women (and more so at the top), and, finally, that it really does not pay to be nice: agreeableness carries a penalty, and particularly so at the top of the wage distribution.

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