Inequality in Socio-Emotional Skills: A Cross-Cohort Comparison

61 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2020

See all articles by Orazio Attanasio

Orazio Attanasio

Dept of Economics Yale University; Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS); University College London - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Richard W. Blundell

UCL; affiliation not provided to SSRN; IFS; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Gabriella Conti

University of Chicago

Giacomo Mason

University College London

Abstract

We examine changes in inequality in socio-emotional skills very early in life in two British cohorts born 30 years apart. We construct comparable scales using two validated instruments for the measurement of child behaviour and identify two dimensions of socio-emotional skills: 'internalising' and 'eternalising'. Using recent methodological advances in factor analysis, we establish comparability in the inequality of these early skills across cohorts, but not in their average level. We document for the first time that inequality in socio-emotional skills has increased across cohorts, especially for boys and at the bottom of the distribution. We also formally decompose the sources of the increase in inequality and find that compositional changes explain half of the rise in inequality in externalising skills. On the other hand, the increase in inequality in internalising skills seems entirely driven by changes in returns to background characteristics. Lastly, we document that socio-emotional skills measured at an earlier age than in most of the existing literature are significant predictors of health and health behaviours. Our results show the importance of formally testing comparability of measurements to study skills differences across groups, and in general point to the role of inequalities in the early years for the accumulation of health and human capital across the life course.

Keywords: inequality, socio-emotional skills, cohort studies, measurement invariance

JEL Classification: J13, J24, I14, I24, C38

Suggested Citation

Attanasio, Orazio and Blundell, Richard W. and Blundell, Richard W. and Conti, Gabriella and Mason, Giacomo, Inequality in Socio-Emotional Skills: A Cross-Cohort Comparison. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3573294 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3573294

Orazio Attanasio (Contact Author)

Dept of Economics Yale University ( email )

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

Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)

7 Ridgmount Street
London, WC1E 7AE
United Kingdom

University College London - Department of Economics ( email )

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
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United States

Richard W. Blundell

UCL ( email )

Department of Economics
Gower Street
London, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom
+44 20 7504 5863 (Phone)
+44 20 7916 2773 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~uctp39a/

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

IFS

7 Ridgmount Street
London, WC1E 7AE
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.ifs.org.uk

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Gabriella Conti

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Giacomo Mason

University College London

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