Early Career, Life-Cycle Choices, and Gender
Do early labor market experiences determine longer-run life and career outcomes, and do they operate differentially for males and females? We study this question in the context of the physician labor market by exploiting a randomized lottery that determines the sorting of Danish physicians into internships, where students with bad lottery numbers end up assigned to less desirable local labor markets and entry-level jobs. Using administrative data that span up to ten years after physicians’ graduations, we study key decisions that determine their longer-run life trajectories. We find causal effects of early-career labor market sorting on a range of life-cycle outcomes that cascade from longer-run labor market sorting, to human capital accumulation, to occupational choice, and even to fertility. Notably, we find that the persistent longer-run effects are entirely driven by females, whereas males experience only temporary career disruptions from unfavorable early-stage sorting. The gender divergence is unlikely to be explained by preferences over entry-level markets, but differential family obligations, attitude toward competition, and mentorship appear to play operative roles. Our findings have implications for policies aiming at outcome-based gender equality, as they reveal how persistent gaps can arise even in an institutionally gender-neutral setting with early-stage equality of opportunity.
We thank Julie Cullen, Gordon Dahl, Karthik Muralidharan, Tom Vogl, and seminar participants at UCSD, University of Copenhagen, Berlin Applied Micro Seminar, and the NBER Summer Institute Gender in the Economy meeting for helpful comments and discussions. We thank the Danish Health Authority, the Regional Councils for Physicians’ Post-Graduate Education, and Danish Telemedicine A/S for data access and helpful institutional knowledge. Fadlon: University of California, San Diego, Department of Economics, and NBER, firstname.lastname@example.org; Lyngse: University of Copenhagen, Department of Economics, and Center for Economic Behavior and Inequality (CEBI), email@example.com; Nielsen: University of Copenhagen, Department of Economics, and CEBI, firstname.lastname@example.org. We gratefully acknowledge funding from the Danish Independent Research Fund (grant no. 9061-00035B). The activities of CEBI are financed by the Danish National Research Foundation. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.