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Hard Evidence on Soft Skills

Listed author(s):
  • James J. Heckman
  • Tim D. Kautz

This paper summarizes recent evidence on what achievement tests measure; how achievement tests relate to other measures of "cognitive ability" like IQ and grades; the important skills that achievement tests miss or mismeasure, and how much these skills matter in life. Achievement tests miss, or perhaps more accurately, do not adequately capture, soft skills--personality traits, goals, motivations, and preferences--that are valued in the labor market, in school, and in many other domains. The larger message of this paper is that soft skills predict success in life, that they causally produce that success, and that programs that enhance soft skills have an important place in an effective portfolio of public policies.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w18121.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18121.

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Date of creation: Jun 2012
Publication status: published as Heckman, James J. & Kautz, Tim, 2012. "Hard evidence on soft skills," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 451-464.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18121
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  1. Erik Hanushek & Stephen Machin & Ludger Woessmann (ed.), 2011. "Handbook of the Economics of Education," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 4, number 4, October.
  2. James Heckman & Seong Hyeok Moon & Rodrigo Pinto & Peter Savelyev & Adam Yavitz, 2010. "Analyzing social experiments as implemented: evidence from the HighScope Perry Preschool Program," CeMMAP working papers CWP22/10, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  3. Hansen, Karsten T. & Heckman, James J. & Mullen, K.J.Kathleen J., 2004. "The effect of schooling and ability on achievement test scores," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 39-98.
  4. James Heckman & Flavio Cunha, 2007. "The Technology of Skill Formation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(2), pages 31-47, May.
  5. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Nathaniel Hilger & Emmanuel Saez & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach & Danny Yagan, 2011. "How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings? Evidence from Project Star," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(4), pages 1593-1660.
  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. Bound, John & Brown, Charles & Mathiowetz, Nancy, 2001. "Measurement error in survey data," Handbook of Econometrics, in: J.J. Heckman & E.E. Leamer (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 59, pages 3705-3843 Elsevier.
  8. Martins, Pedro S., 2010. "Can Targeted, Non-Cognitive Skills Programs Improve Achievement? Evidence from EPIS," IZA Discussion Papers 5266, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Borghans Lex & Golsteyn Bart H.H. & Heckman James & Humphries John Eric, 2011. "Identification Problems in Personality Psychology," Research Memorandum 025, Maastricht University, Maastricht Research School of Economics of Technology and Organization (METEOR).
  10. Lex Borghans & Huub Meijers & Bas Ter Weel, 2008. "The Role Of Noncognitive Skills In Explaining Cognitive Test Scores," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 46(1), pages 2-12, 01.
  11. Heckman, James J. & Moon, Seong Hyeok & Pinto, Rodrigo & Savelyev, Peter A. & Yavitz, Adam, 2010. "The rate of return to the HighScope Perry Preschool Program," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1-2), pages 114-128, February.
  12. James J. Heckman & Paul A. LaFontaine, 2010. "The American High School Graduation Rate: Trends and Levels," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(2), pages 244-262, May.
  13. Flavio Cunha & James J. Heckman & Susanne M. Schennach, 2010. "Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(3), pages 883-931, 05.
  14. Heckman, James J., 2011. "Integrating Personality Psychology into Economics," IZA Discussion Papers 5950, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  15. Heckman, James J. & Humphries, John Eric & Mader, Nicholas S., 2011. "The GED," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
    • James J. Heckman & John Eric Humphries & Nicholas S. Mader, 2010. "The GED," NBER Working Papers 16064, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • Heckman, James J. & Humphries, John Eric & Mader, Nicholas S., 2010. "The GED," IZA Discussion Papers 4975, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  16. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 411-482, July.
  17. Peter Gottschalk, 2005. "Can work alter welfare recipients' beliefs?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(3), pages 485-498.
  18. Eric I. Knudsen & James J. Heckman & Judy L. Cameron & Jack P. Shonkoff, 2006. "Economic, Neurobiological and Behavioral Perspectives on Building America's Future Workforce," NBER Working Papers 12298, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. James J. Heckman & John Eric Humphries & Sergio Urzua & Gregory Veramendi, 2010. "The effects of educational choices on labor market, health, and social outcomes," Working Papers 2011-002, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
  20. James J. Heckman & Dimitriy V. Masterov, 2007. "The Productivity Argument for Investing in Young Children ," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 29(3), pages 446-493.
  21. James Heckman & Seong Hyeok Moon & Rodrigo Pinto & Peter Savelyev & Adam Yavitz, 2010. "Analyzing social experiments as implemented: A reexamination of the evidence from the HighScope Perry Preschool Program," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 1(1), pages 1-46, 07.
  22. Carmit Segal, 2006. "Motivation, test scores and economic success," Economics Working Papers 1124, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Oct 2008.
  23. Almlund, Mathilde & Duckworth, Angela Lee & Heckman, James & Kautz, Tim, 2011. "Personality Psychology and Economics," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
  24. Cunha, Flavio & Heckman, James J. & Lochner, Lance, 2006. "Interpreting the Evidence on Life Cycle Skill Formation," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
  25. repec:mpr:mprres:6808 is not listed on IDEAS
  26. J. Bradford DeLong & Konstantin Magin, 2009. "The U.S. Equity Return Premium: Past, Present, and Future," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(1), pages 193-208, Winter.
  27. 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.
  28. Daniel J. Benjamin & Sebastian A. Brown & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2013. "Who Is ‘Behavioral’? Cognitive Ability And Anomalous Preferences," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(6), pages 1231-1255, December.
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