On the Interpretation of Non-Cognitive Skills: What is Being Measured and Why it Matters

37 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2016

See all articles by John Eric Humphries

John Eric Humphries

Yale University, Department of Economics

Fabian Kosse

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU)

Abstract

Across academic sub-fields such as labor, education, and behavioral economics, the measurement and interpretation of non-cognitive skills varies widely. As a result, it is difficult to compare results on the importance of non-cognitive skills across literatures. Drawing from these literatures, this paper systematically relates various prototypical non-cognitive measures within one data set. Specifically, we estimate and compare several different strategies for measuring non-cognitive skills.For each, we compare their relative effectiveness at predicting educational success and decompose what is being measured into underlying personality traits and economic preferences. We demonstrate that the construction of the non-cognitive factor greatly influences what is actually measured and what conclusions are reached about the role of non-cognitive skills in life outcomes such as educational attainment. Furthermore, we demonstrate that, while sometimes difficult to interpret, factors extracted from self-reported behaviors can have predictive power similar to well established taxonomies, such as the Big Five.

Keywords: non-cognitive skills, personality, preferences, educational success

JEL Classification: J24, I20, D03, D90

Suggested Citation

Humphries, John Eric and Kosse, Fabian, On the Interpretation of Non-Cognitive Skills: What is Being Measured and Why it Matters. IZA Discussion Paper No. 10397, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2879804

John Eric Humphries (Contact Author)

Yale University, Department of Economics ( email )

28 Hillhouse Ave
New Haven, CT 06520-8268
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.johnerichumphries.com

Fabian Kosse

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) ( email )

Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1
Munich, DE Bavaria 80539
Germany

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