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

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  • Anger, Silke

    ()
    (Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung)

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-cognitive skills to promote intergenerational mobility. Intergenerational correlations of cognitive skills in Germany are roughly the same or slightly stronger than those found 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 Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 5749.

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Length: 41 pages
Date of creation: May 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5749

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

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References

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  1. Guido Heineck & Silke Anger, 2008. "The Returns to Cognitive Abilities and Personality Traits in Germany," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 836, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  2. Flavio Cunha & James Heckman, 2007. "The Technology of Skill Formation," NBER Working Papers 12840, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Brown, Sarah & McIntosh, Steven & Taylor, Karl, 2009. "Following in Your Parents' Footsteps? Empirical Analysis of Matched Parent-Offspring Test Scores," IZA Discussion Papers 3986, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. John Ermisch, 2008. "Origins of Social Immobility and Inequality: Parenting and Early Child Development," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 205(1), pages 62-71, July.
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  12. James Heckman & Edward Vytlacil, 2000. "Identifying the Role of Cognitive Ability in Explaining the Level of and Change in the Return to Schooling," NBER Working Papers 7820, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  15. Susan E. Mayer & Greg Duncan & Ariel Kalil, 2004. "Like Mother, Like Daughter? SES and the Intergenerational correlation of Traits, Behaviors and Attitudes," Working Papers 0415, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  16. Yona Rubinstein & James J. Heckman, 2001. "The Importance of Noncognitive Skills: Lessons from the GED Testing Program," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 145-149, May.
  17. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 1991. "The Nonequivalence of High School Equivalents," NBER Working Papers 3804, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Eric Hanushek & Ludger Woessmann, 2008. "The Role of Cognitive Skills in Economic Development," Discussion Papers 07-034, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  19. Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, 2002. "The Inheritance of Inequality," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 3-30, Summer.
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  21. Ermisch, John & Francesconi, Marco, 2001. "Family Matters: Impacts of Family Background on Educational Attainments," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 68(270), pages 137-56, May.
  22. Thorsten Vogel, 2006. "Reassessing Intergenerational Mobility in Germany and the United States: The Impact of Differences in Lifecycle Earnings Patterns," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2006-055, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Broadberry, Stephen, 2011. "Recent developments in the theory of very long run growth: A historical appraisal," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 56, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  2. Chen, Natalie; Conconi, Paola; Perroni, Carlo, 2011. "Multi-Trait Matching and Intergenerational Mobility: A Cinderella Story," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 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.
  4. Huang, Jin, 2013. "Intergenerational transmission of educational attainment: The role of household assets," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 112-123.

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