Predicting Mid-Life Capital Formation with Pre-School Delay of Gratification and Life-Course Measures of Self-Regulation

14 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2019 Last revised: 13 Dec 2019

See all articles by Daniel J. Benjamin

Daniel J. Benjamin

USC, Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

David Laibson

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Walter Mischel

Columbia University

Philip Peake

Smith College

Yuichi Shoda

University of Washington

Alexandra Wellsjo

University of California, Berkeley

Nicole Wilson

University of Oregon

Date Written: November 16, 2019

Abstract

How well do pre-school delay of gratification and life-course measures of self-regulation predict mid-life capital formation? We surveyed 113 participants of the 1967–1973 Bing pre-school studies on delay of gratification when they were in their late 40’s. They reported 11 mid-life capital formation outcomes, including net worth, permanent income, absence of high-interest debt, forward-looking behaviors, and educational attainment. To address multiple hypothesis testing and our small sample, we pre-registered an analysis plan of well–powered tests. As predicted, a newly constructed and pre-registered measure derived from preschool delay of gratification does not predict the 11 capital formation variables (i.e., the sign-adjusted average correlation was 0.02). A pre-registered composite self-regulation index, combining preschool delay of gratification with survey measures of self-regulation collected at ages 17, 27, and 37, does predict 10 of the 11 capital formation variables in the expected direction, with an average correlation of 0.19. The inclusion of the preschool delay of gratification measure in this composite index does not affect the index’s predictive power. We tested several hypothesized reasons that preschool delay of gratification does not have predictive power for our mid-life capital formation variables.

Suggested Citation

Benjamin, Daniel J. and Laibson, David I. and Mischel, Walter and Peake, Philip and Shoda, Yuichi and Wellsjo, Alexandra and Wilson, Nicole, Predicting Mid-Life Capital Formation with Pre-School Delay of Gratification and Life-Course Measures of Self-Regulation (November 16, 2019). Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3502417

Daniel J. Benjamin (Contact Author)

USC, Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR) ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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David I. Laibson

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Walter Mischel

Columbia University ( email )

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Philip Peake

Smith College ( email )

Northampton, MA 01060
United States

Yuichi Shoda

University of Washington ( email )

Seattle, WA 98195
United States

Alexandra Wellsjo

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

530 Evans Hall #3880
Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
United States

Nicole Wilson

University of Oregon ( email )

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5247 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403
United States

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