The Importance of Being an Optimist: Evidence from Labor Markets

44 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2010 Last revised: 29 Oct 2014

See all articles by Ron Kaniel

Ron Kaniel

University of Rochester - Simon Business School; CEPR

Cade Massey

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School

David T. Robinson

Fuqua School of Business, Duke University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative

Date Written: September 2010

Abstract

Dispositional optimism is a personality trait associated with individuals who believe, either rightly or wrongly, that in general good things tend to happen to them more often than bad things. Using a novel longitudinal data set that tracks the job search performance of MBA students, we show that dispositional optimists experience significantly better job search outcomes than pessimists with similar skills. During the job search process, they spend less effort searching and are offered jobs more quickly. They are choosier and are more likely to be promoted than others. Although we find optimists are more charismatic and are perceived by others to be more likely to succeed, these factors alone do not explain away the findings. Most of the effect of optimism on economic outcomes stems from the part that is not readily observed by one's peers.

Suggested Citation

Kaniel, Ron and Massey, Cade and Robinson, David T., The Importance of Being an Optimist: Evidence from Labor Markets (September 2010). NBER Working Paper No. w16328. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1672561

Ron Kaniel (Contact Author)

University of Rochester - Simon Business School ( email )

Rochester, NY 14627
United States

HOME PAGE: http://rkaniel.simon.rochester.edu

CEPR ( email )

London
United Kingdom

Cade Massey

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

3641 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

David T. Robinson

Fuqua School of Business, Duke University ( email )

100 Fuqua Drive
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States
919-660-8023 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative ( email )

215 Morris St., Suite 300
Durham, NC 27701
United States

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