Occupational Choice and the Spirit of Capitalism

Publisert i

Quarterly Journal of Economics 123(2), 2008, pages 747-793


The British Industrial Revolution triggered a socioeconomic transformation whereby the landowning aristocracy was replaced by industrial capitalists rising from the middle classes as the economically dominant group. We propose a theory of preference formation under financial market imperfections that can account for this pattern. Parents shape their children's preferences in response to economic incentives. Middle-class families in occupations requiring effort, skill, and experience develop patience and a work ethic, whereas upper-class families relying on rental income cultivate a refined taste for leisure. These class-specific attitudes, which are rooted in the nature of preindustrial professions, become key determinants of success once industrialization transforms the economic landscape.


By Matthias Doepke and Fabrizio Zilibotti
Published June 29, 2011 1:52 PM - Last modified Mar. 9, 2018 1:49 PM