Locus of control and the gender gap in mental health

Sefa Awaworyi Churchill, Musharavati Ephraim Munyanyi, Kushneel Prakash, Russell Smyth

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7 Citations (Scopus)


We examine whether gender differences in locus of control (LoC) explain gender gaps in mental health using longitudinal data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey. We find that gender differences in LoC is an important factor contributing to the well-recognised gender gap in mental health in favour of males. Our preferred estimates, that take into account differences in the distribution of characteristics of males and females, suggest that at the mean a unit increase in internal LoC for females would narrow the mental health gender gap by 2.2% and that if LoC of women were the same as that of men, it could close the gender gap in mental health by as much as 18.8%. This general conclusion is generally robust to evaluating the gender gap at the 10th and 90th quantile and a suite of sensitivity checks including different ways of measuring key variables and alternative approaches to the Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition. Our findings suggest that resilience education programs that teach positive control beliefs to children should be designed particularly with girls in mind and in such a way as to encourage participation by girls.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)740-758
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Economic Behavior and Organization
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • Australia
  • Gender gaps
  • Locus of control
  • Mental health

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