The Dog that Didn't Bark: What Item Nonresponse Shows about Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Ability

48 Pages Posted: 30 Dec 2012

See all articles by David Hedengren

David Hedengren

George Mason University

Thomas Stratmann

George Mason University - Buchanan Center Political Economy; George Mason University - Mercatus Center; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Date Written: December 28, 2012

Abstract

What survey respondents choose not to answer (item nonresponse) provides a useful task based measure of cognitive ability (e.g., IQ) and non-cognitive ability (e.g., Conscientiousness). Using the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97), we find consistent correlation between item nonresponse and traditional measures of IQ and Conscientiousness. We also find that item nonresponse is more strongly correlated with earnings in the SOEP than traditional measures of either IQ or Conscientiousness. We also use the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) Gold Standard, which has no explicit measure of either cognitive or non-cognitive ability, to show that item nonresponse predicts earnings from self-reported and administrative sources. Consistent with previous work showing that Conscientiousness and IQ are positively associated with longevity, we document that item nonresponse is associated with decreased mortality risk. Our findings suggest that item nonresponse provides an important measure of cognitive and non-cognitive ability that is contained on every survey.

Keywords: Item nonresponse, non-cognitive ability, cognitive ability

JEL Classification: I2, J24

Suggested Citation

Hedengren, David and Stratmann, Thomas, The Dog that Didn't Bark: What Item Nonresponse Shows about Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Ability (December 28, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2194373 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2194373

David Hedengren (Contact Author)

George Mason University ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

Thomas Stratmann

George Mason University - Buchanan Center Political Economy ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States
703-993-2330 (Phone)

George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.mercatus.org/scholars/thomas-stratmann

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

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