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Survey Item-Response Behavior as an Imperfect Proxy for Unobserved Ability: Theory and Application

Author

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  • Kassenboehmer, Sonja C.

    () (Monash University)

  • Schurer, Stefanie

    () (University of Sydney)

Abstract

We develop and test an economic model of the cognitive and non-cognitive foundations of survey item-response behavior. We show that a summary measure of response behaviour - the survey item-response rate (SIRR) - varies with cognitive and less so with non-cognitive abilities, has a strong individual fixed component and is predictive of economic outcomes because of its relationship with ability. We demonstrate the usefulness of SIRR, although an imperfect proxy for cognitive ability, to reduce omitted-variable biases in estimated wage returns. We derive both necessary and sufficient conditions under which the use of an imperfect proxy reduces such biases, providing a general guideline for researchers.

Suggested Citation

  • Kassenboehmer, Sonja C. & Schurer, Stefanie, 2018. "Survey Item-Response Behavior as an Imperfect Proxy for Unobserved Ability: Theory and Application," IZA Discussion Papers 11449, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp11449
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    selection on unobservables; personality traits; survey item-response behavior; imperfect proxy variables; behavioral proxy; cognitive ability;

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • C18 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Methodolical Issues: General
    • C83 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Survey Methods; Sampling Methods
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • J30 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - General

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