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Performance of Young Adults: The Importance of Different Skills


  • Torberg Falch
  • Ole Henning Nyhus
  • Bjarne Strøm


This paper uses teacher assessments at age 16 in Norwegian comprehensive schools to measure different types of skills. While we follow the literature and interpret test scores in Mathematics and Science as proxy for cognitive skills, we use a novel measure for another type of skills: Performance in behavioral and practical subjects. Using individual register data, we find fairly strong and equal effects of the two types of skills on high school graduation probabilities. However, we find that "non-cognitive" skills has a much larger impact than "cognitive" skills on the probability to receive welfare benefits or being inactive (NEET) at age 22, while the findings are the opposite for the probability of college enrollment.

Suggested Citation

  • Torberg Falch & Ole Henning Nyhus & Bjarne Strøm, 2013. "Performance of Young Adults: The Importance of Different Skills," CESifo Working Paper Series 4124, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_4124

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. James Heckman & Flavio Cunha, 2007. "The Technology of Skill Formation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(2), pages 31-47, May.
    2. Koedel, Cory & Tyhurst, Eric, 2012. "Math skills and labor-market outcomes: Evidence from a resume-based field experiment," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 131-140.
    3. Pfeifer, Christian & Cornelißen, Thomas, 2010. "The impact of participation in sports on educational attainment--New evidence from Germany," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 94-103, February.
    4. Kelly Bedard & Elizabeth Dhuey, 2006. "The Persistence of Early Childhood Maturity: International Evidence of Long-Run Age Effects," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(4), pages 1437-1472.
    5. John M. Barron & Bradley T. Ewing & Glen R. Waddell, 2000. "The Effects Of High School Athletic Participation On Education And Labor Market Outcomes," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(3), pages 409-421, August.
    6. Eric A. Hanushek & Ludger Woessmann, 2008. "The Role of Cognitive Skills in Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(3), pages 607-668, September.
    7. Rees, Daniel I. & Sabia, Joseph J., 2010. "Sports participation and academic performance: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(5), pages 751-759, October.
    8. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 411-482, July.
    9. Erik Lindqvist & Roine Vestman, 2011. "The Labor Market Returns to Cognitive and Noncognitive Ability: Evidence from the Swedish Enlistment," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 101-128, January.
    10. Rooth, Dan-Olof, 2011. "Work out or out of work -- The labor market return to physical fitness and leisure sports activities," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 399-409, June.
    11. Bishop, John Hillman, 1989. "Is the Test Score Decline Responsible for the Productivity Growth Decline?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(1), pages 178-197, March.
    12. Murnane, Richard J & Willett, John B & Levy, Frank, 1995. "The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(2), pages 251-266, May.
    13. Brunello, Giorgio & Schlotter, Martin, 2011. "Non Cognitive Skills and Personality Traits: Labour Market Relevance and their Development in Education & Training Systems," IZA Discussion Papers 5743, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    14. Joseph G. Altonji & Charles R. Pierret, 2001. "Employer Learning and Statistical Discrimination," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 313-350.
    15. Jerik Hanushek & Dennis Kimko, 2006. "Schooling, Labor-force Quality, and the Growth of Nations," Educational Studies, Higher School of Economics, issue 1, pages 154-193.
    16. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Eric Bettinger & Torbjørn Haegeland & Mari Rege, 2014. "Home with Mom: The Effects of Stay-at-Home Parents on Children's Long-Run Educational Outcomes," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(3), pages 443-467.
    2. Simon Søbstad Bensnes & Bjarne Strøm, 2015. "Earning or learning? The impact of relaxing shop opening hours restrictions on youth employment, education and earnings," Working Paper Series 16515, Department of Economics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
    3. repec:eee:cysrev:v:81:y:2017:i:c:p:148-156 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    skills; grades; high school graduation; NEET; welfare benefits;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity


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