Inequality in personality over the life cycle

05 November 2021

We document gender and socioeconomic inequalities in personality over the life cycle (age 18–75), using the Big Five 2 (BFI-2) inventory linked to administrative data on a large Danish population. We estimate life-cycle profiles non-parametrically and adjust for cohort and sample-selection effects. We find that: (1) Women of all ages score more highly than men on all personality traits, including three that are positively associated with wages; (2) High-education groups score more favorably on Openness to Experience, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism than low-education groups, while there is no socioeconomic inequality by Conscientiousness; (3) Over the life cycle, gender and socioeconomic gaps remain constant, with two exceptions: the gender and SES gaps in Openness to Experience widen, while gender differences in Neuroticism, a trait associated with worse outcomes, diminish with age. We discuss the implications of these findings in the context of gender wage gaps, household production models, and optimal taxation.