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Family Background, Family Income, Cognitive Tests Scores, Behavioural Scales and their Relationship with Post-secondary Education Participation: Evidence from the NLSCY


  • Pierre Lefebvre
  • Philip Merrigan


This paper exploits the panel feature of the Canadian National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY) and the large diversity of measures collected on the children ad their families over 6 cycles (1994-1995 to 2004-2005) to explain high school graduation and postsecondary education (PSE) choices of Canadian youth aged 18 to 21 observed in the most recent wave of the survey. In estimating how family background, family income, cognitive abilities, non-cognitive abilities and behavioural scores influence schooling choices they can be used as markers for identifying children at risk of not pursuing PSE. We focus on the impact of measures that are specific to the NLSCY which contains a host of scores on several dimensions such as the cognitive achievement of children (reading and math test scores); behavioural scores that measure the levels of hyperactivity, aggression, and pro-sociality; scores that measure self-esteem and self-control (non-cognitive abilities); and, family scores that measure the quality of parenting, family dysfunction, of neighbourhoods and schools quality. The math and reading scores are particularly interesting because they are computed from objective tests and are not based on any type of recall, as compared, for example, with the Youth in Transition Survey (YITS) data set. Despite the fact that income, as measured as the mean income ($2002) of the family during cycles 1 to 4, does not seem to be a key player for PSE attendance or high school graduation, the sign of its effect is generally positive and non-linear, increases for children in very low income will have a large effect that those with higher levels. More importantly, several variables that are characteristics of low-income families play a key role for schooling attainment. For example, being from a single-parent/guardian home with a poorly educated PMK and with less than (perceived) excellent/very good health or with high levels of hyperactivity for males or high levels of aggression for young teenage females will almost negate any chance of attaining the level of PSE.

Suggested Citation

  • Pierre Lefebvre & Philip Merrigan, 2008. "Family Background, Family Income, Cognitive Tests Scores, Behavioural Scales and their Relationship with Post-secondary Education Participation: Evidence from the NLSCY," Cahiers de recherche 0830, CIRPEE.
  • Handle: RePEc:lvl:lacicr:0830

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Nina Drange & Tarjei Havnes, 2015. "Child care before age two and the development of language and numeracy. Evidence from a lottery," Discussion Papers 808, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    2. Fani Tzampazi & Argyris Kyridis & Anastasia Christodoulou, 2013. "‘What Will I Be When I Grow up?’ Children’s Preferred Future Occupations and Their Stereotypical Views," International Journal of Social Science Research, Macrothink Institute, vol. 1(1), pages 19-38, September.

    More about this item


    High school graduation; postsecondary education; schooling transition; gender; youth; longitudinal data;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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