When You Say Nothing at All: The Predictive Power of Student Effort on Surveys

62 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2015 Last revised: 17 Nov 2015

See all articles by Collin Hitt

Collin Hitt

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

Julie R. Trivitt

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform

Albert Cheng

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform

Date Written: October 29, 2015

Abstract

Character traits and noncognitive skills are important for human capital development and long-run life outcomes. Research in economics and psychology now shows this clearly. But research into the exact determinants of noncognitive skills have been slowed by a common data limitation: most large-scale datasets do not contain adequate measures of noncognitive skills.

This is a particularly acute problem in education policy evaluation. We demonstrate that there are important latent data within any survey dataset that can be used as proxy measures of noncognitive skills. Specifically, we examine the amount of conscientious effort that students exhibit on surveys, as measured by their item response rates. We use six nationally representative, longitudinal surveys of American youth. We find that the percentage of questions left unanswered during the baseline year, when respondents were adolescents, is a significant predictor of later-life outcomes. Respondents with higher item response rates are more likely to attain higher levels of education. The pattern of findings gives compelling reasons to view item response rates as a promising behavioral measure of noncognitive skills for use in future research in education. We posit that response rates are a partial measure of conscientiousness, though additional research from the field of psychology is required to determine what exact noncognitive skills are being captured by item response rates.

Keywords: Noncognitive Skills; Educational Attainment; Employment Income; Human Capital

JEL Classification: J24, I21

Suggested Citation

Hitt, Collin and Trivitt, Julie R. and Cheng, Albert, When You Say Nothing at All: The Predictive Power of Student Effort on Surveys (October 29, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2684096 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2684096

Collin Hitt (Contact Author)

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform ( email )

201 Graduate Education Building
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

Southern Illinois University at Carbondale - School of Medicine ( email )

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

Julie R. Trivitt

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform ( email )

201 Graduate Education Building
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

Albert Cheng

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform ( email )

201 Graduate Education Building
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
53
Abstract Views
648
rank
411,213
PlumX Metrics