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Uncovering the Power of Personality to Shape Income

SOEPpapers 951, 28 S.

Jaap J. A. Denissen, Wiebke Bleidorn, Marie Hennecke, Maike Luhmann, Ulrich Orth, Jule Specht, Julia Zimmermann


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The notion of person-environment fit implies that personal and contextual factors interact in influencing important life outcomes. Using data from 8,458 employed individuals, we examined the combined effects of individuals' actual personality traits and jobs’ expert-rated personality demands on earnings. Results from a response surface analysis indicated that the fit between individuals’ actual personality and the personality demands of their jobs is a predictor of income. Conclusions of this combined analysis were partly opposite to conclusions reached in previous studies using conventional regression methods. Individuals can earn additional income of more than their monthly salary per year if they hold a job that fits their personality. Thus, at least for some traits, economic success depends not only on having a “successful personality” but also, in part, on finding the best niche for one's personality. We discuss the findings with regard to labor-market policies and individuals’ job-selection strategies.

Keywords: personality, socioeconomic status, performance, individual differences
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