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On the interpretation of non-cognitive skills – What is being measured and why it matters

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  • Humphries, John Eric
  • Kosse, Fabian

Abstract

Across academic sub-fields such as labor, education, and behavioral economics, the measurement and interpretation of non-cognitive skills varies widely. As a result, it is difficult to compare results on the importance of non-cognitive skills across literatures. Drawing from these literatures, this paper systematically relates various prototypical non-cognitive measures within one data set. Specifically, we estimate and compare several different strategies for measuring non-cognitive skills. For each strategy, we compare their relative effectiveness at predicting educational success and decompose what is being measured into underlying personality traits and economic preferences. We demonstrate that the construction of the non-cognitive factor greatly influences what is actually measured, how it relates to more standard taxonomies and what conclusions are reached about the role of non-cognitive skills in life-outcomes such as educational attainment. Furthermore, we demonstrate that, while sometimes difficult to interpret, factors extracted from self-reported behaviors can have predictive power similar to well established taxonomies, such as the Big Five.

Suggested Citation

  • Humphries, John Eric & Kosse, Fabian, 2017. "On the interpretation of non-cognitive skills – What is being measured and why it matters," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 136(C), pages 174-185.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:136:y:2017:i:c:p:174-185
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2017.02.001
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    Cited by:

    1. Peter Hoeschler & Uschi Backes-Gellner, 2017. "The Relative Importance of Personal Characteristics for the Hiring of Young Workers," Economics of Education Working Paper Series 0142, University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration (IBW), revised Jan 2018.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Non-cognitive skills; Personality; Preferences; Educational success;

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D90 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - General

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