Non-Cognitive Abilities and Spanish Regional Differences in Student Performance in PISA 2009

30 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2015

See all articles by Ildefonso Mendez

Ildefonso Mendez

University of Murcia - Department of Applied Economics

Gema Zamarro

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform; Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR)

José G. Clavel

University of Murcia

Collin Hitt

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform; Southern Illinois University - School of Medicine

Date Written: June 2015

Abstract

The goal of this paper is to analyze the role that non-cognitive skills and, in particular, regional differences in those skills, play on the observed differences in 15-year-old student’s academic performance, across Spanish regions, on PISA 2009. Previous research has shown the relevance of differences in student’s personal, family and school characteristics in accounting for academic differences across Spanish regions but it has also found that a sizeable part of the observed differences remained unexplained. We have found that differences in the distribution of certain non-cognitive skills associated to academic performance like focus, perseverance and resilience play a prominent role in accounting for differences in student performance in PISA 2009. We observe these skills by developing new measures of student effort on standardized tests. In particular, our estimates suggest that a standard deviation reduction in the dispersion of non-cognitive skills across Spanish regions would lead to a 25% reduction in the magnitude of the observed differences in student performance across regions. This is a relevant effect as, for example, a one standard deviation reduction in the regional dispersion of parent’s educational levels or occupational status would only lead to at most a 2% reduction in the magnitude of observed differences in performance on PISA across Spanish regions. Put plainly, a substantial portion of the regional variation in test scores appears attributable to effort on the PISA test, and not necessarily just differences in actual knowledge.

Keywords: Non-cognitive skills, perseverance, resilience, academic performance, PISA study, Spain.

Suggested Citation

Mendez, Ildefonso and Zamarro, Gema and Clavel, José G. and Hitt, Collin, Non-Cognitive Abilities and Spanish Regional Differences in Student Performance in PISA 2009 (June 2015). EDRE Working Paper No. 2015-05, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2652322 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2652322

Ildefonso Mendez

University of Murcia - Department of Applied Economics ( email )

3010 Murcia
Spain

Gema Zamarro (Contact Author)

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform ( email )

201 Graduate Education Building
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR) ( email )

635 Downey Way
Los Angeles, CA 90089-3332
United States

HOME PAGE: http://works.bepress.com/gema_zamarro/

José G. Clavel

University of Murcia ( email )

Avda Teniente Flomesta, 5
Murcia, Murcia 30100
Spain

Collin Hitt

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform ( email )

201 Graduate Education Building
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

Southern Illinois University - School of Medicine ( email )

P.O. Box 19620
Springfield, IL 62794-9620
United States

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