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Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation

  • Susanne Schennach

    (University of Chicago)

  • James Heckman

    (University of Chicago)

  • Flavio Cunha

    (University of Chicago)

This paper formulates and estimates a model of the evolution of child cognitive and noncognitive skills as determined by parental investments at different stages of the life cycle. We estimate the elasticity of substitution between contemporaneous investments and inherited stocks of skills to assess the benefits of early investment in children compared to later investment. We develop a nonlinear factor analysis and use it to establish nonparametric identification of the technology of skill formation. A by-product of our approach is a framework for the evaluation of childhood interventions that avoids reliance on arbitrarily scaled test scores. Since any monotonic transformation of a test score is also a valid test score, "value added" analyses of test scores have no clear interpretation. We develop a general nonparametric solution to this problem by anchoring test scores and other outcome measures in adult outcomes with interpretable scales.

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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2007 Meeting Papers with number 973.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:red:sed007:973
Contact details of provider: Postal: Society for Economic Dynamics Christian Zimmermann Economic Research Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis PO Box 442 St. Louis MO 63166-0442 USA
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Web page: http://www.EconomicDynamics.org/society.htm
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  1. Murnane, Richard J & Willett, John B & Levy, Frank, 1995. "The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(2), pages 251-66, May.
  2. Heckman, James J. & Moon, Seong Hyeok & Pinto, Rodrigo & Savelyev, Peter & Yavitz, Adam, 2009. "The Rate of Return to the High/Scope Perry Preschool Program," IZA Discussion Papers 4533, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. 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.
  4. Schennach, Susanne M., 2004. "Nonparametric Regression In The Presence Of Measurement Error," Econometric Theory, Cambridge University Press, vol. 20(06), pages 1046-1093, December.
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  9. Flavio Cunha & James J. Heckman, 2009. "The Economics and Psychology of Inequality and Human Development," Working Papers 200934, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
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  15. Cawley, John & Heckman, James & Vytlacil, Edward, 2001. "Three observations on wages and measured cognitive ability," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(4), pages 419-442, September.
  16. Petra E. Todd & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 2003. "On The Specification and Estimation of The Production Function for Cognitive Achievement," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(485), pages F3-F33, February.
  17. Carneiro, Pedro & Hansen, Karsten T. & Heckman, James J., 2003. "Estimating Distributions of Treatment Effects with an Application to the Returns to Schooling and Measurement of the Effects of Uncertainty on College Choice," IZA Discussion Papers 767, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  18. 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.
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  20. 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).
  21. Whitney K. Newey & James L. Powell, 2003. "Instrumental Variable Estimation of Nonparametric Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(5), pages 1565-1578, 09.
  22. James Heckman & Lance Lochner & Christopher Taber, 1998. "Explaining Rising Wage Inequality: Explanations With A Dynamic General Equilibrium Model of Labor Earnings With Heterogeneous Agents," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 1(1), pages 1-58, January.
  23. Matzkin, Rosa L., 2007. "Nonparametric identification," Handbook of Econometrics, in: J.J. Heckman & E.E. Leamer (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 6, chapter 73 Elsevier.
  24. Susanne M. Schennach, 2004. "Estimation of Nonlinear Models with Measurement Error," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(1), pages 33-75, 01.
  25. John Cawley & James Heckman & Edward Vytlacil, 1999. "On Policies To Reward The Value Added By Educators," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(4), pages 720-727, November.
  26. Yingyao Hu & Susanne Schennach, 2006. "Identification and estimation of nonclassical nonlinear errors-in-variables models with continuous distributions using instruments," CeMMAP working papers CWP17/06, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  27. Watson, Mark W. & Engle, Robert F., 1983. "Alternative algorithms for the estimation of dynamic factor, mimic and varying coefficient regression models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 385-400, December.
  28. Geweke, John, 1989. "Bayesian Inference in Econometric Models Using Monte Carlo Integration," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(6), pages 1317-39, November.
  29. Roland G. Fryer, Jr. & Steven D. Levitt, 2002. "Understanding the Black-White Test Score Gap in the First Two Years of School," NBER Working Papers 8975, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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