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Hard Evidence on Soft Skills

  • 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
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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
Note: CH LS
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  1. James J. Heckman & Paul A. LaFontaine, 2007. "The American High School Graduation Rate: Trends and Levels," NBER Working Papers 13670, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. Heckman, James J. & Humphries, John Eric & Mader, Nicholas S., 2010. "The GED," IZA Discussion Papers 4975, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    • James J. Heckman & John Eric Humphries & Nicholas S. Mader, 2010. "The GED," NBER Working Papers 16064, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Flavio Cunha & James Heckman & Susanne Schennach, 2010. "Estimating the technology of cognitive and noncognitive skill formation," CeMMAP working papers CWP09/10, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Borghans, Lex & Golsteyn, Bart H.H. & Heckman, James J. & Humphries, John Eric, 2011. "Identification Problems in Personality Psychology," IZA Discussion Papers 5605, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  12. 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).
  13. Flavio Cunha & James Heckman, 2007. "The Technology of Skill Formation," NBER Working Papers 12840, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. 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.
  15. Heckman, James J. & Masterov, Dimitriy V., 2007. "The Productivity Argument for Investing in Young Children," IZA Discussion Papers 2725, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  16. James J. Heckman & Seong Hyeok Moon & Rodrigo Pinto & Peter A. Savelyev & Adam Yavitz, 2010. "Analyzing Social Experiments as Implemented: A Reexamination of the Evidence From the HighScope Perry Preschool Program," Working Papers 201034, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
  17. Flavio Cunha & James J. Heckman & Lance Lochner & Dimitriy V. Masterov, 2005. "Interpreting the Evidence on Life Cycle Skill Formation," NBER Working Papers 11331, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Nathaniel Hilger & Emmanuel Saez & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach & Danny Yagan, 2010. "How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings? Evidence From Project STAR," NBER Working Papers 16381, 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. 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.
  21. repec:mpr:mprres:6808 is not listed on IDEAS
  22. Heckman, James J., 2011. "Integrating Personality Psychology into Economics," IZA Discussion Papers 5950, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  23. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," NBER Working Papers 12006, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Almlund, Mathilde & Duckworth, Angela Lee & Heckman, James J. & Kautz, Tim, 2011. "Personality Psychology and Economics," IZA Discussion Papers 5500, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  25. Carmit Segal, 2006. "Motivation, test scores and economic success," Economics Working Papers 1124, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Oct 2008.
  26. 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.
  27. 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.
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