Adolescent Conscientiousness Predicts Lower Lifetime Unemployment



Egan M, Daly M, Delaney L, Boyce CJ & Wood AM (2017) Adolescent Conscientiousness Predicts Lower Lifetime Unemployment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 102 (4), pp. 700-709.

Existing research on Big Five personality and unemployment has relied on personality measures elicited after the respondents had already spent years in the labor market, an experience which could change personality. We clarify the direction of influence by using the British Cohort Study (N = 4,206) to examine whether conscientiousness and other Big Five personality traits at age 16-17 predict unemployment over age 16-42. Our hypothesis that higher conscientiousness in adolescence would predict lower unemployment was supported. In analyses controlling for intelligence, gender, and parental socioeconomic status, the less conscientious (-1SD) had a predicted probability of unemployment twice as high (3.4% vs 1.7%) as the highly conscientious (+1SD), an effect size comparable to intelligence. Mediation analysis revealed that academic motivation and educational attainment explained only 8.9% of this association. Fostering conscientiousness in early-life may be an effective way to reduce unemployment throughout adulthood.

conscientiousness; Big Five personality; unemployment; longitudinal data; cohort studies

Journal of Applied Psychology: Volume 102, Issue 4

FundersEconomic and Social Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council
Publication date30/04/2017
Publication date online28/11/2016
Date accepted by journal24/08/2016
PublisherAmerican Psychological Association

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Dr Christopher Boyce

Dr Christopher Boyce

Honorary Research Fellow, SMS Management and Support

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