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The Impact of Education on Personality: Evidence from a German High School Reform

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  • Dahmann, Sarah

    () (University of Sydney)

  • Anger, Silke

    () (Institute for Employment Research (IAB), Nuremberg)

Abstract

This paper investigates the short-term effects of a reduction in the length of high school on students' personality traits using a school reform carried out at the state level in Germany as a quasi-natural experiment. Starting in 2001, academic-track high school (Gymnasium) was reduced from nine to eight years in most of Germany's federal states, leaving the overall curriculum unchanged. This enabled students to obtain a university entrance qualification (Abitur) after a total of only 12 rather than 13 years of schooling. We exploit the variation in the length of academic-track high school over time and across states to identify the effect of schooling on students' Big Five personality traits and on their locus of control. Using rich data on adolescents and young adults from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) study, our estimates show that shortening high school caused students on average to be more extroverted and less emotionally stable. Our estimates point to important heterogeneous effects. In addition to differences between East and West Germany, we find that male students and students from disrupted families showed stronger personality changes following the reform: they became more agreeable and more extroverted, respectively. We conclude that the educational system plays an important role in shaping adolescents' personality traits.

Suggested Citation

  • Dahmann, Sarah & Anger, Silke, 2014. "The Impact of Education on Personality: Evidence from a German High School Reform," IZA Discussion Papers 8139, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp8139
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    1. repec:eee:labeco:v:47:y:2017:i:c:p:15-34 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Quis, Johanna Sophie & Reif, Simon, 2017. "Health effects of instruction intensity: Evidence from a natural experiment in German high-schools," BERG Working Paper Series 123, Bamberg University, Bamberg Economic Research Group.
    3. Schurer, Stefanie & Kassenboehmer, Sonja C. & Leung, Felix, 2015. "Do Universities Shape Their Students' Personality?," IZA Discussion Papers 8873, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Stephan L. Thomsen, 2015. "The impacts of shortening secondary school duration," IZA World of Labor, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), pages 166-166, July.
    5. Korthals, Roxanne, 2017. "The effects of accelerating the school curriculum on student outcomes," ROA Research Memorandum 001, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
    6. repec:zbw:espost:162940 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Fletcher Jason M. & Schurer Stefanie, 2017. "Origins of Adulthood Personality: The Role of Adverse Childhood Experiences," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 17(2), pages 1-22, April.
    8. Huebener, Mathias & Kuger, Susanne & Marcus, Jan, 2017. "Increased instruction hours and the widening gap in student performance," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 15-34.
    9. repec:eee:labeco:v:47:y:2017:i:c:p:35-47 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Malte Preuss & Juliane Hennecke, 2017. "Biased by Success and Failure: How Unemployment Shapes Stated Locus of Control," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 943, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
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    12. Mühlemann, Samuel & Pfann, Gerard A. & Pfeifer, Harald & Dietrich, Hans, 2018. "The Effects of Supply Shocks in the Market for Apprenticeships: Evidence from a German High School Reform," IZA Discussion Papers 11264, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    13. Dahmann, Sarah C., 2017. "How does education improve cognitive skills? Instructional time versus timing of instruction," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 35-47.
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    15. Dörsam, Michael & Lauber, Verena, 2015. "The Effect of a Compressed High School Curriculum on University Grades: DiD-Evidence From a German Policy Shift," Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 112876, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    16. Adrian Hille, 2015. "How a Universal Music Education Program Affects Time Use, Behavior, and School Attitude," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 810, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    17. Dörsam, Michael & Lauber, Verena, 2015. "The Effect of a Compressed High School Curriculum on University Performance," Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 140876, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    18. repec:iza:izawol:journl:y:2017:n:366 is not listed on IDEAS
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    21. repec:eee:labeco:v:51:y:2018:i:c:p:170-183 is not listed on IDEAS
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    24. repec:eee:ecoedu:v:58:y:2017:i:c:p:1-14 is not listed on IDEAS
    25. Cabane, Charlotte & Hille, Adrian & Lechner, Michael, 2016. "Mozart or Pelé? The effects of adolescents' participation in music and sports," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 90-103.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    non-cognitive skills; Big Five; locus of control; skill formation; high school reform;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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