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The effect of personality traits on subject choice and performance in high school

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  • Silvia Mendolia
  • Ian Walker

Abstract

This paper investigates the relationship between personality traits in adolescence and performance in high school using a large and recent cohort study. In particular, we investigate the impact of locus of control, self-esteem, and work ethics at age 15, on test scores at age 16, and on subject choices and subsequent performance at age 17-18. In particular, individuals with external locus of control or with low levels of self-esteem seem less likely to have good performance in test scores at age 16 and to pursue further studies at 17-18, especially in mathematics or science. We use matching methods to control for a rich set of adolescent and family characteristics and we find that personality traits do affect study choices and performance in test scores - particularly in mathematics and science. We explore the robustness of our results using the methodology proposed by Altonji et al. (2005) that consists in making hypotheses about the correlation between the unobservables that determine test scores and subjects’ choices and the unobservables that influence personality.

Suggested Citation

  • Silvia Mendolia & Ian Walker, 2014. "The effect of personality traits on subject choice and performance in high school," Working Papers 64907361, Lancaster University Management School, Economics Department.
  • Handle: RePEc:lan:wpaper:64907361
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    File URL: http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/media/lancaster-university/content-assets/documents/lums/economics/working-papers/PersonalityTraits.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Cobb-Clark, Deborah A. & Schurer, Stefanie, 2012. "The stability of big-five personality traits," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 115(1), pages 11-15.
    3. Schurer, Stefanie, 2014. "Bouncing Back from Health Shocks: Locus of Control, Labor Supply, and Mortality," IZA Discussion Papers 8203, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Joseph G. Altonji & Todd E. Elder & Christopher R. Taber, 2005. "Selection on Observed and Unobserved Variables: Assessing the Effectiveness of Catholic Schools," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(1), pages 151-184, February.
    5. Kalena E. Cortes & Joshua S. Goodman & Takako Nomi, 2015. "Intensive Math Instruction and Educational Attainment: Long-Run Impacts of Double-Dose Algebra," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 50(1), pages 108-158.
    6. Lex Borghans & Angela Lee Duckworth & James J. Heckman & Bas ter Weel, 2008. "The Economics and Psychology of Personality Traits," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(4).
    7. Mary Silles, 2010. "Personality, education and earnings," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(2), pages 131-151.
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    Cited by:

    1. Deborah Cobb-Clark, 2015. "Locus of control and the labor market," IZA Journal of Labor Economics, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 4(1), pages 1-19, December.
    2. Haile, Getinet & Bryson, Alex & White, Michael, 2015. "Spillover effects of unionisation on non-members' wellbeing," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 108-122.
    3. Katharina Jaik & Stefan C. Wolter, 2016. "Lost in Transition: The Influence of Locus of Control on Delaying Educational Decisions," Economics of Education Working Paper Series 0118, University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration (IBW).
    4. Giuseppe Migali & Eugenio Zucchelli, 2014. "The relationship between forgone health care and high school dropout," Working Papers 71679142, Lancaster University Management School, Economics Department.
    5. Silvia Mendolia & Alfredo R Paloyo & Ian Walker, 2018. "Heterogeneous effects of high school peers on educational outcomes," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(3), pages 613-634.
    6. Silvia Mendolia & Ian Walker, 2015. "Youth unemployment and personality traits," IZA Journal of Labor Economics, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 4(1), pages 1-26, December.
    7. Di Tommaso, Maria Laura & Mendolia, Silvia & Contini, Dalit, 2016. "The Gender Gap in Mathematics Achievement: Evidence from Italian Data," IZA Discussion Papers 10053, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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    Keywords

    personality; education; locus of control; self-esteem;

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