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The Labor Market Returns to Cognitive and Noncognitive Ability: Evidence from the Swedish Enlistment

Author

Listed:
  • Lindqvist, Erik

    (Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN))

  • Westman, Roine

    (New York University)

Abstract

We use data from the military enlistment for a large representative sample of Swedish men to assess the importance of cognitive and noncognitive ability for labor market outcomes. The measure of noncognitive ability is based on a personal interview conducted by a psychologist. Unlike survey-based measures of noncognitive ability, this measure is a substantially stronger predictor of labor market outcomes than cognitive ability. In particular, we find strong evidence that men who fare badly in the labor market in the sense of long-term unemployment or low annual earnings lack noncognitive but not cognitive ability. We point to a technological explanation for this result. Noncognitive ability is an important determinant of productivity irrespective of occupation or ability level, though it seems to be of particular importance for workers in a managerial position. In contrast, cognitive ability is valuable only for men in qualified occupations. As a result, noncognitive ability is more important for men at the verge of being priced out of the labor market.

Suggested Citation

  • Lindqvist, Erik & Westman, Roine, 2009. "The Labor Market Returns to Cognitive and Noncognitive Ability: Evidence from the Swedish Enlistment," Working Paper Series 794, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:0794
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lex Borghans & Huub Meijers & Bas Ter Weel, 2008. "The Role Of Noncognitive Skills In Explaining Cognitive Test Scores," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 46(1), pages 2-12, January.
    2. Marvin H. Kosters, 1991. "Workers and Their Wages: Changing Patterns in the United States," Books, American Enterprise Institute, number 52907, September.
    3. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2005. "Do Cognitive Test Scores Explain Higher U.S. Wage Inequality?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(1), pages 184-193, February.
    4. Paul J. Andrisani, 1977. "Internal-External Attitudes, Personal Initiative, and the Labor Market Experience of Black and White Men," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 12(3), pages 308-328.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Personality; Noncognitive ability; Cognitive ability; Intelligence; Human capital;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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