Driven to Succeed? Teenagers' Drive, Ambition and Performance on High-Stakes Examinations

45 Pages Posted: 29 Jul 2020

See all articles by John Jerrim

John Jerrim

University of London - Institute of Education

Dominique Shure

University College London

Gillian Wyness

University College London - UCL Institute of Education

Abstract

There has been much interest across the social sciences in the link between young people's socioemotional (non-cognitive) skills and their educational achievement. But much of this research has focused upon the role of the Big Five personality traits. This paper contributes new evidence by examining two inter-related non-cognitive factors that are rarely studied in the literature: ambition and drive. We use unique survey-administrative linked data from England, gathered in the lead-up to high-stakes compulsory school exams, which allow us to control for a rich set of background characteristics, prior educational attainment and, unusually, school fixed effects. Our results illustrate substantial gender and immigrant gaps in young people's ambitiousness, while the evidence for socio-economic differences is more mixed. Conversely, we find a strong socioeconomic gradient in drive, but no gender gap. Both academically ambitious and driven teenagers achieve grades around 0.37 standard deviations above their peers, even controlling for prior academic attainment and school attended.

Keywords: socio-economic gaps, gender gaps, aspirations, secondary school, higher education

JEL Classification: I24, J24

Suggested Citation

Jerrim, John and Shure, Dominique and Wyness, Gillian, Driven to Succeed? Teenagers' Drive, Ambition and Performance on High-Stakes Examinations. IZA Discussion Paper No. 13525, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3660272 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3660272

John Jerrim (Contact Author)

University of London - Institute of Education ( email )

20 Bedford Way,
London, WC1H 0AL
United Kingdom

Dominique Shure

University College London ( email )

Gower Street
London, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom

Gillian Wyness

University College London - UCL Institute of Education

20 Bedford Way
London, WC1H 0AL
United Kingdom

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