Making it Right? Social Norms, Handwriting and Human Capital
88 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2016 Last revised: 2 Feb 2018
Date Written: September 16, 2017
Can early childhood interventions compensate for innate deficits? In this paper, I study the forced right-hand writing of left-handed children (“switching”). While previous literature has found that, due to innate cognitive deficits, left-handers obtain less human capital and lower wages than right-handers, I find that switched left-handers perform equally well or even better in the labor market than right-handers. Only non-switched left-handers exhibit the deficits of left-handers found in earlier studies. To address potential selection bias, I employ a difference- in-difference approach, where I exploit the rapid decline of switching across cohorts. Cohort trends of the outcome variables of right-handers, who were never switched, are used as a counterfactual for left-handers. Using rich data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), I show that the observed differences in outcomes occur due to differential human capital accumulation, rather than cognitive or non-cognitive skills. My findings are consistent with switching compensating for the innate deficits of left-handers.
Keywords: early childhood intervention, human capital formation, cognitive skills, lefthandedness
JEL Classification: J24, J15, I20
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation