On October 23rd Dr. Irina Tomescu-Dubrow presented a paper: ‘The Effects of International Exposure on Individual Success’.
Is international exposure, defined through experience of working abroad, proficiency in Western foreign languages, and having close family in the West, conducive to individual success, above and beyond traditional determinants of occupational achievement? My expectation is that people who worked abroad and who know foreign languages enjoy better earning opportunities thanks to a set of accrued ‘special skills’ that enrich their human capital. At the same time, overseas employment and close ties with relatives abroad can boost one’s economic capital, which could be fruitfully used toward entrepreneurship. The data for testing the human capital and the economic capital hypotheses come from the Polish Panel Survey POLPAN 1988-2008. In this survey a representative sample of adult Poles was interviewed in 1988 and re-interviewed in 1993, 1998, 2003 and 2008, which allows me to measure over-time changes in individuals’ characteristics, their socio-economic standing especially. In part of the analysis I treat POLPAN as cross-sectional and use OLS regression with lag variables and with correction for possible intra-group correlation. To account for autocorrelation and multicollinearity stemming from the data’s hierarchical structure, I also use random coefficient models as specified in the panel regression procedure of STATA in the average population form. Results strongly back the expectation that international exposure enhances individual success in both the proposed manifestations: as relative income gains, and as movement into entrepreneurship, that is, into the social class that gained most from the post-communist transformation. The two human capital variables, working abroad and knowledge of Western languages, prove powerful determinants of individuals’ earnings, other things equal. Regarding the economic capital hypothesis, working abroad and family in the West significantly increase the odds that a person becomes employer rather than entering any other social class, ceteris paribus. Of note is also their positive, statistically significant interaction with self-employment prior to 1989. This effect shows that the economic capital resources are especially valuable for respondents who have already acquired basic entrepreneurial skills during state socialism.