Survey Item-Response Behavior as an Imperfect Proxy for Unobserved Ability: Theory and Application

64 Pages Posted: 2 May 2018

See all articles by Sonja C. Kassenboehmer

Sonja C. Kassenboehmer

Monash University - Centre for Health Economics

Stefanie Schurer

Victoria University of Wellington - School of Economics and Finance

Abstract

We develop and test an economic model of the cognitive and non-cognitive foundations of survey item- response behavior. We show that a summary measure of response behaviour – the survey item-response rate (SIRR) – varies with cognitive and less so with non-cognitive abilities, has a strong individual fixed component and is predictive of economic outcomes because of its relationship with ability. We demonstrate the usefulness of SIRR, although an imperfect proxy for cognitive ability, to reduce omitted-variable biases in estimated wage returns. We derive both necessary and sufficient conditions under which the use of an imperfect proxy reduces such biases, providing a general guideline for researchers.

Keywords: survey item-response behavior, imperfect proxy variables, behavioral proxy, cognitive ability, personality traits, selection on unobservables

JEL Classification: J24, C18, C83, I20, J30

Suggested Citation

Kassenboehmer, Sonja C. and Schurer, Stefanie, Survey Item-Response Behavior as an Imperfect Proxy for Unobserved Ability: Theory and Application. IZA Discussion Paper No. 11449. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3170238

Sonja C. Kassenboehmer (Contact Author)

Monash University - Centre for Health Economics ( email )

Building 75, 15 Innovation Walk
Monash University
Clayton, Victoria 3800
Australia

Stefanie Schurer

Victoria University of Wellington - School of Economics and Finance ( email )

P.O. Box 600
Wellington 6001
New Zealand
+64-4-4636708 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.victoria.ac.nz/sef/staff/stefanie-schurer.aspx

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