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One Size Fits All? The Effects of Teacher Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Abilities on Student Achievement

  • Grönqvist, Erik
  • Vlachos, Jonas

Teachers are increasingly being drawn from the lower parts of the general ability distribution, but it is not clear how this affects student achievement. We track the position of entering teachers in population-wide cognitive and non-cognitive ability distributions using school grades and draft records from Swedish registers. The impact on student achievement caused by the position of teachers in these ability distributions is estimated using matched student-teacher data. On average, teachers' cognitive and non-cognitive social interactive abilities do not have a positive effect on student performance. However, social interactive ability turns out to be important for low aptitude students, whilst the reverse holds for cognitive abilities. In fact, while high performing students benefit from high cognitive teachers, being matched to such a teacher can even be detrimental to their lower performing peers. Hence, the lower abilities among teachers may hurt some students, whereas others may even benefit. High cognitive and non-cognitive abilities thus need not necessarily translate into teacher quality. Instead, these heterogeneities highlight the importance of the student-teacher matching process.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 7086.

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Date of creation: Dec 2008
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7086
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  1. 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.
  2. Lakdawalla, Darius, 2006. "The Economics of Teacher Quality," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(1), pages 285-329, April.
  3. Marigee P. Bacolod, 2007. "Do Alternative Opportunities Matter? The Role of Female Labor Markets in the Decline of Teacher Quality," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(4), pages 737-751, November.
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  9. Ehrenberg, Ronald G. & Brewer, Dominic J., 1995. "Did teachers' verbal ability and race matter in the 1960s? Coleman revisited," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 1-21, March.
  10. Flavio Cunha & James J. Heckman, 2008. "Formulating, Identifying and Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(4).
  11. Jonah E. Rockoff, 2004. "The Impact of Individual Teachers on Student Achievement: Evidence from Panel Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 247-252, May.
  12. 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 101-28, January.
  13. Caroline M. Hoxby & Andrew Leigh, 2004. "Pulled Away or Pushed Out? Explaining the Decline of Teacher Aptitude in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 236-240, May.
  14. Charles T. Clotfelter & Helen F. Ladd & Jacob L. Vigdor, 2006. "Teacher-Student Matching and the Assessment of Teacher Effectiveness," NBER Working Papers 11936, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Stephen Nickell & Glenda Quintini, 2002. "The Consequences of The Decline in Public Sector Pay in Britain: A Little Bit of Evidence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(477), pages F107-F118, February.
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