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Parents Basic Skills and Childrens Cognitive Outcomes

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

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  1. Carneiro, Pedro & Meghir, Costas & Parey, Matthias, 2007. "Maternal Education, Home Environments and the Development of Children and Adolescents," IZA Discussion Papers 3072, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. John Cawley & Karen Conneely & James Heckman & Edward Vytlacil, 1996. "Cognitive Ability, Wages, and Meritocracy," NBER Working Papers 5645, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Ann Huff Stevens & Marianne Page & Philip Oreopoulos, 2005. "The Intergenerational Effects of Compulsory Schooling," Working Papers 519, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
  4. Susanne Schennach & James Heckman & Flavio Cunha, 2007. "Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation," 2007 Meeting Papers 973, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. Ishikawa, Mamoru & Ryan, Daniel, 2002. "Schooling, basic skills and economic outcomes," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 231-243, June.
  6. Arnaud Chevalier, 2004. "Parental Education And Child's Education: A Natural Experiment," Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2004 42, Royal Economic Society.
  7. 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 1016-30, December.
  8. 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.
  9. Richard J. Murnane & John B. Willett & Frank Levy, 1995. "The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination," NBER Working Papers 5076, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Cunha, Flavio & Heckman, James J. & Lochner, Lance, 2006. "Interpreting the Evidence on Life Cycle Skill Formation," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
  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. Tyler, John H., 2004. "Basic skills and the earnings of dropouts," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 221-235, June.
  13. 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 453-81, July.
  14. Carneiro, Pedro & Heckman, James J., 2003. "Human Capital Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 821, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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