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The Economic Value of Breaking Bad: Misbehavior, Schooling and the Labor Market

57 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2014 Last revised: 3 Jun 2016

Nicholas W. Papageorge

Johns Hopkins University Department of Economics

Victor Ronda

Johns Hopkins University Department of Economics

Yu Zheng

City University of Hong Kong (CityUHK) - Department of Economics & Finance; European University Institute - Economics Department (ECO)

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Date Written: June 1, 2016

Abstract

Prevailing research argues that childhood misbehavior in the classroom is bad for schooling and, presumably, bad for adult outcomes. In contrast, we argue that childhood misbehavior represents some underlying non-cognitive skills that are valuable in the labor market. We follow work from psychology and categorize observed classroom misbehavior into two underlying latent factors. We then estimate a model of educational attainment and earnings outcomes, allowing the impact of each of the two factors to vary by outcome. We find one of the factors, labeled in the psychological literature as externalizing behavior (and linked, for example, to aggression), reduces educational attainment yet increases earnings. Unlike most models where non-cognitive skills that increase human capital through education also increase labor market skills, our findings illustrate how some non-cognitive skills can be productive in some economic contexts and counter-productive in others. Policies designed to promote human capital accumulation could therefore have mixed effects or even negative economic consequences, especially for policies that target non-cognitive skill formation for children or adolescents which are aimed solely at improving educational outcomes.

Keywords: Labor, Education, Non-Cognitive Skills

JEL Classification: J10, J20, I20

Suggested Citation

Papageorge, Nicholas W. and Ronda, Victor and Zheng, Yu, The Economic Value of Breaking Bad: Misbehavior, Schooling and the Labor Market (June 1, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2503293 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2503293

Nicholas Papageorge (Contact Author)

Johns Hopkins University Department of Economics ( email )

3400 Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218-2685
United States

Victor Ronda

Johns Hopkins University Department of Economics ( email )

3400 Charles Stree
Baltimore, MA 21218-2685
United States

Yu Zheng

City University of Hong Kong (CityUHK) - Department of Economics & Finance ( email )

83 Tat Chee Avenue
Kowloon
Hong Kong

European University Institute - Economics Department (ECO) ( email )

Villa San Paolo
Via della Piazzuola 43
50133 Florence
Italy

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