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Working When No One Is Watching: Motivation, Test Scores, and Economic Success

  • Carmit Segal

    ()

    (Department of Economics, University of Zurich, 8006 Zurich, Switzerland)

This paper provides evidence that scores on simple, low-stakes tests are associated with future economic success because the scores also reflect test takers' personality traits associated with their level of intrinsic motivation. To establish this, I use the coding speed test that was administered without incentives to participants in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY). I show that, controlling for cognitive ability, the coding speed scores are correlated with future earnings of male NLSY participants. I provide evidence that the coding speed scores relate to intrinsic motivation. I show that the scores of the highly motivated, though less educated, group (potential recruits to the U.S. military), are higher than the NLSY participants' scores. I use controlled experiments to show directly that intrinsic motivation is an important component of the unincentivized coding speed scores and that it relates to test takers' personality traits. This paper was accepted by Teck Ho, behavioral economics.

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.1110.1509
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Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Management Science.

Volume (Year): 58 (2012)
Issue (Month): 8 (August)
Pages: 1438-1457

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Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:58:y:2012:i:8:p:1438-1457
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  1. Peter Coles & John Cawley & Phillip B. Levine & Muriel Niederle & Alvin E. Roth & John J. Siegfried, 2010. "The Job Market for New Economists: A Market Design Perspective," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(4), pages 187-206, Fall.
  2. Uri Gneezy & Aldo Rustichini, 2000. "Pay Enough or Don't Pay at All," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 791-810.
  3. Borghans, Lex & Meijers, Huub & ter Weel, Bas, 2006. "The Role of Noncognitive Skills in Explaining Cognitive Test Scores," IZA Discussion Papers 2429, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Neal, Derek A & Johnson, William R, 1996. "The Role of Premarket Factors in Black-White Wage Differences," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 869-95, October.
  5. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," NBER Working Papers 12006, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Michael Kremer & Edward Miguel & Rebecca Thornton, 2004. "Incentives to learn," Natural Field Experiments 00289, The Field Experiments Website.
  7. Dohmen, Thomas & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David B. & Sunde, Uwe, 2007. "Are Risk Aversion and Impatience Related to Cognitive Ability?," IZA Discussion Papers 2735, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Ernst Fehr & Armin Falk, 1999. "Wage Rigidity in a Competitive Incomplete Contract Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(1), pages 106-134, February.
  9. Dan Ariely & Uri Gneezy & George Loewenstein & Nina Mazar, 2009. "Large Stakes and Big Mistakes," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(2), pages 451-469.
  10. Nicola Persico & Andrew Postlewaite & Dan Silverman, 2003. "The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height," PIER Working Paper Archive 03-036, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  11. 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.
  12. Hansen, Karsten T. & Heckman, James J. & Mullen, K.J.Kathleen J., 2004. "The effect of schooling and ability on achievement test scores," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 39-98.
  13. Heckman, James J, 1995. "Lessons from the Bell Curve," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(5), pages 1091-1120, October.
  14. Nicola Persico & Andrew Postlewaite & Dan Silverman, 2001. "The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height, Third Version," PIER Working Paper Archive 04-013, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 05 Jan 2004.
  15. Joshua Angrist & Victor Lavy, 2009. "The Effects of High Stakes High School Achievement Awards: Evidence from a Randomized Trial," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1384-1414, September.
  16. Melissa Osborne & Herbert Gintis & Samuel Bowles, 2001. "The Determinants of Earnings: A Behavioral Approach," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(4), pages 1137-1176, December.
  17. Elizabeth U. Cascio & Ethan G. Lewis, 2006. "Schooling and the Armed Forces Qualifying Test: Evidence from School-Entry Laws," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(2).
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