A Research Agenda for Understanding the Dynamics of Skill Formation

8 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2011  

James J. Heckman

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); American Bar Foundation; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Date Written: October 4, 2010

Abstract

Many current social problems have their roots in deficits in abilities. Ability deficits open up early in life and persist. They produce inequality and reduce productivity. Evidence from a variety of studies shows that there are critical and sensitive periods for development. Sensitive periods come earlier in life for cognitive traits. The age pattern is less pronounced for noncognitive traits. This pattern is associated with slower development of the prefrontal cortex. Noncognitive traits stimulate production of cognitive traits and are major contributors to human performance. The powerful role of noncognitive traits and the capacity of interventions to improve these traits is currently neglected in public policy discussions.

Suggested Citation

Heckman, James J., A Research Agenda for Understanding the Dynamics of Skill Formation (October 4, 2010). American Economic Association, Ten Years and Beyond: Economists Answer NSF's Call for Long-Term Research Agendas. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1889178 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1889178

James J. Heckman (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-0634 (Phone)
773-702-8490 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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American Bar Foundation

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Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

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Bonn, D-53072
Germany

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

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Munich, DE-81679
Germany

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