Comparing and Validating Measures of Character Skills: Findings from a Nationally Representative Sample

45 Pages Posted: 9 May 2016

See all articles by Gema Zamarro

Gema Zamarro

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

Albert Cheng

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS); University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform

M. Danish Shakeel

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform

Collin Hitt

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform

Date Written: May 9, 2016

Abstract

Though researchers now are aware of the potential importance of character skills, such as conscientiousness, grit, self-control, and a growth mindset, researchers struggle to find reliable measures of these skills. In this paper, we use data collected from the Understanding America Study, a nationally representative internet panel to study the validity of innovative measures of character skills based on measures of survey effort. We believe surveys themselves can be seen as a behavioral tasks and that respondents provide meaningful information about their character skills by way of the effort they put forward on surveys. In particular, we compare measures of grit, conscientiousness and other personality traits, and growth mindset, based on self-reports, and survey effort measures of character. We study the relationship across each other and their relationship with academic and life outcomes such as income and labor-market outcomes, after controlling for cognitive ability and other relevant demographic characteristics. Our results show that survey effort measures of character skills, in particular measures of careless answering in surveys, show great promise for being good proxy measures of relevant non-cognitive skills.

Keywords: character skills, grit, conscientiousness, behavioral tasks, survey effort

JEL Classification: C83, C91

Suggested Citation

Zamarro, Gema and Cheng, Albert and Shakeel, M. Danish and Hitt, Collin, Comparing and Validating Measures of Character Skills: Findings from a Nationally Representative Sample (May 9, 2016). EDRE Working Paper No. 2016-08. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2777635 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2777635

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/

Albert Cheng

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform ( email )

201 Graduate Education Building
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

M. Danish Shakeel

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform ( email )

201 Graduate Education Building
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

Collin Hitt

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform ( email )

201 Graduate Education Building
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

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