Socially Embedded Investments: Explaining Gender Differences in Job-Specific Skills Articles uri icon

publication date

  • November 2012

start page

  • 592

end page

  • 634


  • 3


  • 118

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0002-9602


  • This article offers an innovative explanation for gender differences in job specialization that connects individual choices to the social structure. Decisions about jobs are modeled as a choice over different tenure-reward slopes, which are steeper for more specialized skills. The choice of job depends on expected duration. Individuals have imperfect information about their probability of success in different jobs and form expectations partly by observing the social context. Because women face greater constraints and uncertainties than men, their choices depend more on this context. Contextual influences on job specialization are tested for European respondents nested in 234 different regions. Consonant with the theory's predictions, women are found to have more specialized jobs in regions where (1) the preceding generation's job specialization diverged less by gender, (2) peers arrange a more equal division of housework, and (3) peers have fewer children.


  • gender differences; job specialization; choice of job; gender roles