Hard Evidence on Soft Skills

54 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2012 Last revised: 14 Jun 2012

See all articles by James J. Heckman

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)

Tim Kautz

University of Chicago

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 2012

Abstract

This paper summarizes recent evidence on what achievement tests measure; how achievement tests relate to other measures of "cognitive ability" like IQ and grades; the important skills that achievement tests miss or mismeasure, and how much these skills matter in life.Achievement tests miss, or perhaps more accurately, do not adequately capture, soft skills--personality traits, goals, motivations, and preferences--that are valued in the labor market, in school, and in many other domains. The larger message of this paper is that soft skills predict success in life, that they causally produce that success, and that programs that enhance soft skills have an important place in an effective portfolio of public policies.

Suggested Citation

Heckman, James J. and Kautz, Tim, Hard Evidence on Soft Skills (June 2012). NBER Working Paper No. w18121. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2073161

James J. Heckman (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

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CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

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Tim Kautz

University of Chicago ( email )

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