Universal sex differences appear in adolescents’ career aspirations, MU study finds

Researchers at the University of Missouri and University of Essex say their results also mirror a similar study completed in 1918

Feb. 18, 2022


Brian Consiglio: When you were asked as a child what you wanted to be when you grow up, do you remember how you answered? A new study at the University of Missouri found that career aspirations tend to differ by gender between males and females, not only here in the United States, but in 80 countries around the world included in the study.

MU psychology professor David Geary analyzed career aspirations data from the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment.

Geary: “What we found was, in every single country we looked at, more boys than girls wanted to go into things-oriented occupations, such as mechanic or carpenter, and in every single country, more girls than boys wanted to go into people-oriented occupations such as teacher or physician.”

Consiglio: The findings, which have implications for both the current and future global workforce, also highlighted a ‘gender-equality paradox,’ where countries with greater levels of gender equality actually have larger gender differences in occupational aspirations.

Geary: “We saw a tendency for these differences to be larger in gender equal countries, we saw more occupational segregation in a place like Norway or Sweden that are more gender equal, and that ratio gets bigger as countries become wealthier and more gender equal.”

Consiglio: For more on this research, visit showme.missouri.edu.

I’m Brian Consiglio, with a Spotlight on Mizzou.

Learn more about the research here

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