A Comparison of Preferences and Traits between Self-Employed Workers and Employees

We compare self-employed workers and employees on their preferences and traits. To this end, we implemented a survey, including incentivized economic experiments, among the Dutch working population (N = 4, 282). Data from the survey are enriched with demographic variables from register data by Statistics Netherlands. Our data contain a rich set of preferences and traits, including economic preferences, social preferences, personality traits, and cognitive traits, which allows us to provide an extensive picture of the differences between the two groups. Additionally, we measure preferences with both incentivized economic experiments and self-assessed survey questions, which allows us to compare these different elicitation methods. We find that self-employed workers are more willing to take risks, more patient, more optimistic, and more willing to reciprocate negatively, compared to employees. They also have lower financial management skills and report lower trust in institutions and higher trust in other people. Results from incentivized experiments are largely in line with the results from survey questions for risk and social preferences, but contrasting results are found for time preferences with self-employed workers making less patient choices. Self-employed workers do not differ on average from employees in other preferences and traits, such as self-control, financial literacy, ambiguity aversion, and overconfidence.

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