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Parents Basic Skills and Childrens Cognitive Outcomes

Listed author(s):
  • Elena Meschi
  • Anna Vignoles
  • Augustin de Coulon

The main aim of this paper is to assess how parents' literacy and numeracy affect the cognitive skill of their children. The data used are from the British Cohort Survey (BCS) which provides in 2004 basic skill assessments for all cohort members and cognitive tests for their children. We find strong evidence that parents with higher basic skills have children who perform better in cognitive achievement tests. This result is robust to the inclusion of a wide range of factors, including family characteristics (socio-professional status, qualifications and income levels of the parents), family structure (number of siblings, lone parenthood), child characteristics (gender, age, whether first born, number of siblings) and even parents' own early cognitive ability as measured at age 5. We estimate a model where cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes of the children are simultaneously determined by their parents' basic skills and other characteristics (using a SURE approach). We find that parents' basic skills explain only their children's cognitive skills, and not their non-cognitive outcomes. We suggest this provides some support for the proposition that parents' basic skills are having a genuinely causal impact on children's cognitive skills rather than simply being correlated with other unobserved parental characteristics that improve child achievement.

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File URL: http://cee.lse.ac.uk/ceedps/ceedp104.pdf
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Paper provided by Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE in its series CEE Discussion Papers with number 0104.

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Date of creation: Dec 2008
Handle: RePEc:cep:ceedps:0104
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://cee.lse.ac.uk/publications.htm

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  1. McIntosh, Steven & Vignoles, Anna, 2001. "Measuring and Assessing the Impact of Basic Skills on Labour Market Outcomes," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 53(3), pages 453-481, July.
  2. Pedro Carneiro & Costas Meghir & Matthias Parey, 2010. "Maternal education, home environments and the development of children and adolescents," CeMMAP working papers CWP39/10, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  3. Cunha, Flavio & Heckman, James J. & Lochner, Lance, 2006. "Interpreting the Evidence on Life Cycle Skill Formation," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
  4. Flavio Cunha & James Heckman & Susanne Schennach, 2010. "Estimating the technology of cognitive and noncognitive skill formation," CeMMAP working papers CWP09/10, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  5. Ishikawa, Mamoru & Ryan, Daniel, 2002. "Schooling, basic skills and economic outcomes," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 231-243, June.
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  7. John H. Tyler, 2002. "Basic Skills and the Earnings of Dropouts," Working Papers 2002-09, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  8. Sandra E. Black & Paul Devereux & Kjell Salvanes, 2004. "Why the apple doesn't fall far: understanding intergenerational transmission of human capital," Working Paper Series 2004-12, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  9. Arnaud Chevalier, 2004. "Parental Education and Childs Education: A Natural Experiment," CEE Discussion Papers 0040, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
  10. James Heckman & Pedro Carneiro, 2003. "Human Capital Policy," NBER Working Papers 9495, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Heckman, James J, 1995. "Lessons from the Bell Curve," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(5), pages 1091-1120, October.
  12. Leon Feinstein, 2003. "Inequality in the Early Cognitive Development of British Children in the 1970 Cohort," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 70(277), pages 73-97, February.
  13. Boissiere, M & Knight, J B & Sabot, R H, 1985. "Earnings, Schooling, Ability, and Cognitive Skills," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(5), pages 1016-1030, December.
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  15. Philip Oreopoulos & Marianne E. Page, 2006. "The Intergenerational Effects of Compulsory Schooling," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(4), pages 729-760, October.
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