New research provides evidence that higher testosterone levels reduce unemployment risks and increase the odds of getting a job. The results appear in the journal Economics and human biologysuggests that testosterone levels in men are associated with behaviors and cognitive processes that influence shifts in the labor market.
“We were interested in how biological markers (such as testosterone levels) relate to socioeconomic outcomes,” said study author Peter Ibish, vice president of the research group on employment demography at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research.
“Data on these biomarkers are now frequently collected as part of large social science household surveys, such as the UK Household Longitudinal Study, which we used in our research project. However, our understanding of how these biological processes relate to social and economic behavior is still limited. Currently (at least for most biomarkers available).
“Testosterone is a particularly interesting case – previous research shows very clearly that testosterone levels are associated with certain personality traits (eg, risk aversion) and individual behavior (eg, status quest and dominant behaviour). These traits have been linked and personal behaviors prior to the individual’s success in the labor market.”
Meanwhile, the evidence for the health consequences of high or low testosterone levels is somewhat inconclusive. As such, testosterone is an example of a biological process that may influence economic behavior without necessarily being related to health or disability.”
The UK Household Longitudinal Study began in 2009 and collected a wide range of information from around 40,000 families. The study now includes nine waves of data. Importantly, participants were asked about the current workforce status in each wave. The nurses collected biomedical information, including testosterone levels, from more than 20,000 adult participants about five months after they completed Wave 2 or Wave 3 of the study.
To examine the relationship between testosterone and labor market shifts, Ibish and colleagues analyzed data from 2,115 men aged 25 to 64 who indicated they were either employed or unemployed (but not self-employed) during the nurse’s visit.
The researchers found that unemployed men with medium and high testosterone levels were more likely to report being employed during the subsequent wave than unemployed men with low testosterone levels. This was true even after controlling for genetic variance.
“Our results suggest that British men with higher levels of testosterone are less likely to be unemployed, and are less likely to remain unemployed if they are unemployed,” Ibish told PsyPost. This is likely due to differences in personality traits and behavior caused by testosterone. For example, we found that men with higher levels of testosterone were more confident and reported being more likely to use the Internet to look for work.”
But like all research, the new study has some limitations.
“The important caveat is that the data used in our research only include testosterone that was measured at one time point,” Ibish explained. “We compensate for this to some extent by using genetic data to isolate variation in testosterone levels caused by differences in gene expressions (and thus constant across the life course). However, further investigation using data on multiple measurements of testosterone levels for the same individuals may It’s helpful in getting an idea of how testosterone levels fluctuate over time for a single person.”
“It would also be interesting to look at the consequences for women,” he added. “Our study only included men, because most women’s testosterone levels were below the detectable threshold.”
The study, “In and Out of Unemployment – Labor Market Shifts and the Role of Testosterone,” by Peter Ibish, Ricky Canabar, Alexander Blum, and Julian Schmid.