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Inequality in socio-emotional skills: A cross-cohort comparison

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  • Attanasio, Orazio
  • Blundell, Richard
  • Conti, Gabriella
  • Mason, Giacomo

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 ‘externalising’. 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.

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  • Attanasio, Orazio & Blundell, Richard & Conti, Gabriella & Mason, Giacomo, 2020. "Inequality in socio-emotional skills: A cross-cohort comparison," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 191(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:191:y:2020:i:c:s0047272720300359
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2020.104171
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    6. Mitchell, Mark, 2020. "The Development of Health and Human Capital Accumulation," MPRA Paper 103711, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Ann Swift & Edurne Garcia Iriarte & Philip Curry & Roy McConkey & Robbie Gilligan & Marisa Antunes, 2021. "How Disability and Other Socio-Economic Factors Matter to Children’s Socio-Emotional Outcomes: Results from a Longitudinal Study Conducted in Ireland," Child Indicators Research, Springer;The International Society of Child Indicators (ISCI), vol. 14(1), pages 391-409, February.
    8. Ariel Kalil & Susan Mayer & Rohen Shah, 2020. "Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on Family Dynamics in Economically Vulnerable Households," Working Papers 2020-143, Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics.
    9. Cleary, Rebecca & Liu, Yizao & Carlson, Andrea C., 2022. "Differences in the Distribution of Nutrition Between Households Above and Below Poverty," 2022 Annual Meeting, July 31-August 2, Anaheim, California 322267, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
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    11. Kovacic, Matija & Orso, Cristina Elisa, 2022. "Trends in inequality of opportunity in health over the life cycle: The role of early-life conditions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 201(C), pages 60-82.
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    15. Esposito, Piero & Scicchitano, Sergio, 2022. "Drivers of skill mismatch among Italian graduates: The role of personality traits," GLO Discussion Paper Series 1048, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    16. Jim Been & Anne C. Gielen & Marike Knoef & Gloria Moroni, 2022. "Prolonged worklife among grandfathers: Spillover effects on grandchildren's educational outcomes," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 22-033/V, Tinbergen Institute.
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    18. Cavaglia, Chiara & Etheridge, Ben, 2020. "Job polarization and the declining quality of knowledge workers: evidence from the UK and Germany," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 105819, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    19. Anne Nolan & Smyth, Emer, 2021. "Risk and protective factors for mental health and wellbeing in childhood and adolescence," Research Series, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), number RS120, March.
    20. Cristina Elisa Orso & Matija Kovacic, 2022. "Trends in Inequality of Opportunity in health over the life cycle: the role of early-life conditions," Working Papers 598, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Inequality; Socio-emotional skills; Cohort studies; Measurement invariance;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • I14 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Inequality
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • C38 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Classification Methdos; Cluster Analysis; Principal Components; Factor Analysis

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