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Regular version of the site

Article

The effects of prenatal testosterone on wages: Evidence from Russia

Economics and Human Biology. 2017. Vol. 24. P. 43-60.
Nye J. V., Bruhanov M., Kochergina E. V., Orel E., Polyachenko S. S., Yudkevich M. M.

Is in utero exposure to testosterone correlated with earnings? The question matters for understanding determinants of wage differences that have attracted so much attention among economists in the past decade. Evidence indicates that markers for early testosterone exposure are correlated with traits like risk-taking and aggressiveness. But it is not at all clear how such findings might map into labor market success. We combine unique data from the Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey with measured markers (2D:4D ratios) for testosterone exposure and find that lower digit ratios (higher T) correlate with higher wages for women and for men, when controlling for age, education and occupation. There is also some evidence of a potential non-linear, inverse U-effect of digit ratios on wages but this is sensitive to choice of specification. These findings are consistent with earlier work on prenatal T and success in careers (Coates et al., 2009) but inconsistent with the work of Gielen et al. (2016) who find differing effects for men and women.