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The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior

  • James J. Heckman
  • Jora Stixrud
  • Sergio Urzua

This paper establishes that a low dimensional vector of cognitive and noncognitive skills explains a variety of labor market and behavioral outcomes. For many dimensions of social performance cognitive and noncognitive skills are equally important. Our analysis addresses the problems of measurement error, imperfect proxies, and reverse causality that plague conventional studies of cognitive and noncognitive skills that regress earnings (and other outcomes) on proxies for skills. Noncognitive skills strongly influence schooling decisions, and also affect wages given schooling decisions. Schooling, employment, work experience and choice of occupation are affected by latent noncognitive and cognitive skills. We study a variety of correlated risky behaviors such as teenage pregnancy and marriage, smoking, marijuana use, and participation in illegal activities. The same low dimensional vector of abilities that explains schooling choices, wages, employment, work experience and choice of occupation explains these behavioral outcomes.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w12006.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12006.

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Date of creation: Feb 2006
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Publication status: published as Heckman, James J., Jora Stixrud and Sergio Urzua. "The Effects Of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities On Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," Journal of Labor Economics, 2006, v24(3,Jul), 411-482.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12006
Note: CH ED LS
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  1. Yona Rubinstein & James J. Heckman, 2001. "The Importance of Noncognitive Skills: Lessons from the GED Testing Program," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 145-149, May.
  2. Neal, Derek A & Johnson, William R, 1996. "The Role of Premarket Factors in Black-White Wage Differences," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 869-95, October.
  3. Cunha, Flavio & Heckman, James, 2008. "A New Framework For The Analysis Of Inequality," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(S2), pages 315-354, September.
  4. Carneiro, Pedro & Heckman, James & Masterov, Dimitriy, 2004. "Labor market discrimination and racial differences in premarket factors," Working Paper Series 2005:3, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
  5. Heckman, James J. & Navarro, Salvador, 2005. "Dynamic Discrete Choice and Dynamic Treatment Effects," IZA Discussion Papers 1790, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. James J. Heckman & Edward Vytlacil, 2005. "Structural Equations, Treatment Effects, and Econometric Policy Evaluation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(3), pages 669-738, 05.
  7. James Heckman & Pedro Carneiro, 2003. "Human Capital Policy," NBER Working Papers 9495, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Hansen, Karsten T & Heckman, James J & Mullen, Kathleen J, 2003. "The effect of schooling and ability on achievement test scores," Working Paper Series 2003:13, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
  9. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 1998. "Life Cycle Schooling and Dynamic Selection Bias: Models and Evidence for Five Cohorts of American Males," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(2), pages 262-333, April.
  10. Spence, A Michael, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-74, August.
  11. Klein, Roger & Spady, Richard & Weiss, Andrew, 1991. "Factors Affecting the Output and Quit Propensities of Production Workers," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(5), pages 929-53, October.
  12. Gottlieb, Daniel & Moreira, Humberto Ataíde & Araújo, Aloísio Pessoa de, 2004. "A model of mixed signals with applications to countersignaling an the GED," Economics Working Papers (Ensaios Economicos da EPGE) 553, FGV/EPGE Escola Brasileira de Economia e Finanças, Getulio Vargas Foundation (Brazil).
  13. Cunha, Flavio & Heckman, James J. & Lochner, Lance John & Masterov, Dimitriy V., 2005. "Interpreting the Evidence on Life Cycle Skill Formation," IZA Discussion Papers 1675, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  14. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 2001. "The Dynamics of Educational Attainment for Black, Hispanic, and White Males," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(3), pages 455-499, June.
  15. Browning, Martin & Hansen, Lars Peter & Heckman, James J., 1999. "Micro data and general equilibrium models," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 8, pages 543-633 Elsevier.
  16. Goldsmith, Arthur H & Veum, Jonathan R & Darity, William, Jr, 1997. "The Impact of Psychological and Human Capital on Wages," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(4), pages 815-29, October.
  17. Melissa Osborne & Herbert Gintis & Samuel Bowles, 2001. "The Determinants of Earnings: A Behavioral Approach," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(4), pages 1137-1176, December.
  18. Groves, Melissa Osborne, 2005. "How important is your personality? Labor market returns to personality for women in the US and UK," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 26(6), pages 827-841, December.
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