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The Intergenerational Transmission of Cognitive and Non-cognitive Skills during Adolescence and Young Adulthood

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  • Silke Anger

Abstract

This study examines cognitive and non-cognitive skills and their transmission from parents to children as one potential candidate to explain the intergenerational link of socio-economic status. Using representative data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study, we contrast the impact of parental cognitive abilities (fluid intelligence, crystallized intelligence) and personality traits (Big Five, locus of control) on their adolescent and young adult children's traits with the effects of parental background and childhood environment. While for both age groups intelligence and personal traits were found to be transmitted from parents to their children, there are large discrepancies with respect to the age group and the type of skill. The intergenerational transmission effect was found to be relatively small for adolescent children, with correlations between 0.12 and 0.24, whereas the parent-child correlation in the sample of adult children was between 0.19 and 0.27 for non-cognitive skills, and up to 0.56 for cognitive skills. Thus, the skill gradient increases with the age of the child. Furthermore, the skill transmission effects are virtually unchanged by controlling for childhood environment or parental education, suggesting that the socio-economic status of the family does not play a mediating role in the intergenerational transmission of intelligence and personality traits. The finding that non-cognitive skills are not as strongly transmitted as cognitive skills, suggests that there is more room for external (non-parental) influences in the formation of personal traits. Hence, it is more promising for policy makers to focus on shaping children's non-cognitiveskills to promote intergenerational mobility. Intergenerational correlations of cognitive skills in Germany are roughly the same or slightly stronger than thosefound by previous studies for other countries with different institutional settings. Intergenerational correlations of non-cognitive skills revealed for Germany seem to be considerably higher than the ones found for the U.S.. Hence, skill transmission does not seem to be able to explain cross-country differences in socio-economic mobility.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) in its series SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research with number 473.

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Length: 39 p.
Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp473

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Keywords: Cognitive abilities; personality; intergenerational transmission; skill formation;

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Huang, Jin, 2013. "Intergenerational transmission of educational attainment: The role of household assets," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 112-123.
  2. Chen, Natalie; Conconi, Paola; Perroni, Carlo, 2011. "Multi-Trait Matching and Intergenerational Mobility: A Cinderella Story," CAGE Online Working Paper Series, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) 57, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  3. Michael Weinhardt & Jürgen Schupp, 2011. "Multi-Itemskalen im SOEP Jugendfragebogen," Data Documentation 60, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.

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