Obedience in the Labor Market and Social Mobility: A Socio-Economic Approach
This paper presents an analysis of what types of values, especially in regards to obedience vs. independence, families impart to their children and how these values interact with social mobility. In the model, obedience is a useful characteristic for employers, especially when wages are low, because independent workers require more incentives (when wages are high, these incentives are automatic). Hence, in low-wage environments, low-income families will impart values of obedience to their children to prevent disadvantaging them in the labor market. To the extent that independence is useful for entrepreneurial activities, this then depresses their social mobility. High-income and privileged parents, on the other hand, always impart values of independence, since they expect that their children can enter into higher-income entrepreneurial (or managerial) activities thanks to their family resources and privileges. I also discuss how political activity can be hampered when labor market incentives encourage greater obedience and how this can generate multiple steady states with different patterns of social hierarchy and mobility.
Prepared for the Economica Centenary Conference. I thank participants at the conference and Jim Robinson for comments and suggestions. I am grateful to Lauren Fahey, Hyunjin Kim, Carlos Molina, Pascual Restrepo and John Sturm for spectacular research assistance. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Daron Acemoglu, 2022. "Obedience in the Labour Market and Social Mobility: A Socioeconomic Approach," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 89(S1), pages 2-37, June. citation courtesy of