February 28th will be marked as a very special date on GRAPE's calendar. It is on this date that two GRAPERS successfully defended their PhD's at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Warsaw, almost half a year ahead of time. These GRAPERS are Magdalena Smyk and Lucas van der Velde. Below a short summary of their research and the slides presented at during their public defenses.
Magdalena's research revolves around the choice of an occupation, and particularly how parents' gender norms can influence their offspring's outcomes. Such a research question is answered with the help of a multidisciplinary approach that complements economics insights with arguments from sociology, gender identity theories, among others. The results suggest, first, that men and women tend to work in occupations with a similar gender composition than same sex parents. As such, a men whose father worked in a male dominated occupation is more likely to work in a predominantly male occupation. This evidence is consistent with an intergenerational transmission of norms, where parent's gender norms condition the decisions made by the children. Moreover, Magdalena's research shows that the transmission of gender beliefs begins at an early stage. Male students whose parents thought that boys were better at math were much more likely to choose STEM occupations. Such belief not only encourages boys to choose STEM fields, it has a similar effect, but of an opposing sign on girls.
In short, Magdalena's research is a first step into rethinking models of occupational choice to incorporate ``soft'' constraints, such as those stemming from parents' gender norms. The obtained results are not only theoretically relevant; they also highlight that in order to achieve greater gender equality, it is not sufficient to address them ex-post. Instead, one might also promote non-gender biased norms among kids.
Lucas' research, on the other hand, explore how technological progress affected several labour market outcomes: within occupation wage dispersion, career patterns and early retirement decisions. The selection of these topics was not random; rather, it serves to tackle three untested assumptions of existing models of Routine Biased Technological Change. The first such assumption is that in non-routine tasks individual skills matter more. Consequently, occupations with a greater share of such tasks should presented greater wage dispersion. Results seem to support such characterization of tasks.
The second set of results refers to career patterns and early retirement. Both studies emerge from a single question: do workers in occupations where demand is falling experience more unstable careers that eventually end up in early retirement? Theory suggests unequivocally that yes, as these workers had to reskill in order to obtain an employment in the emerging sector. Data from Germany and Great Britain suggest otherwise. Though workers in routine occupations appear to have slightly more unstable careers , evidence supporting the mechanisms describe by the theory is scant and country specific. To overcome this shortcoming, author proposes to modify how technological process is modeled to require workers in non-routine occupations to adapt their skills as well.