SAFE Working Paper No. 142

The Impact of Long-Run Macroeconomic Experiences on Personality

Using two datasets containing demographically representative samples of the Dutch population, I study how lifetime experiences of aggregate labor market conditions affect personality. Three sets of findings are reported. First, experienced aggregate unemployment is negatively correlated with the levels of all Big Five personality traits, except for conscientiousness (no significant correlation). Second, in panel data models with individual fixed effects I find that changes in experienced aggregate unemployment cause changes in emotional stability and agreeableness for men, and conscientiousness for women. The correlation is positive, and effects are economically large. Thirdly, I report suggestive evidence that the main driver is experienced aggregate unemployment, instead of other macroeconomic variables as experienced GDP, stock market returns or inflation. Taken together, these findings suggest that changes in Big Five personality traits are systematically related to experienced aggregate labor market conditions.