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Two economists’ musings on the stability of locus of control

  • Cobb-Clark, Deborah
  • Schurer, Stefanie

Empirical studies of the role of non-cognitive skills in driving economic behavior often rely heavily on the assumption that these skills are stable over the relevant time frame. We analyze the change in a specific non-cognitive skill, i.e. locus of control, in order to directly assess the validity of this assumption. We find that short- and medium-run changes in locus of control are rather modest on average, are concentrated among the young or very old, do not appear to be related to the demographic, labor market, and health events that individuals experience, and are unlikely to be economically meaningful. Still, there is no evidence that locus of control is truly time-invariant implying that the use of lagged measures results in an errors-in-variables problem that could downward bias the estimated wage return to locus of control by as much as 50 percent. Those researchers wishing to analyze the economic consequences of non-cognitive skills should consider (i) restricting their analysis to the working-age population for whom there is little evidence of systematic change in skill levels and (ii) accounting for error in the skill measures they employ.

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Paper provided by Victoria University of Wellington, School of Economics and Finance in its series Working Paper Series with number 1619.

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Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:vuw:vuwecf:1619
Contact details of provider: Postal: Alice Fong, Administrator, School of Economics and Finance, Victoria Business School, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600 Wellington, New Zealand
Phone: +64 (4) 463-5353
Fax: +64 (4) 463-5014
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  1. Merve Cebi, 2007. "Locus of Control and Human Capital Investment Revisited," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(4).
  2. Lex Borghans & Angela Lee Duckworth & James J. Heckman & Bas ter Weel, 2008. "The Economics and Psychology of Personality Traits," NBER Working Papers 13810, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Bound, John & Krueger, Alan B, 1991. "The Extent of Measurement Error in Longitudinal Earnings Data: Do Two Wrongs Make a Right?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 9(1), pages 1-24, January.
  4. Thomas DeLeire & Margo Coleman, 2000. "An Economic Model of Locus of Control and the Human Capital Investment Decision," Working Papers 0019, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
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  8. Juan D. Barón & Deborah Cobb-Clark, . "Are Young People's Educational Outcomes Linked to their Sense of Control?," Borradores de Economia 599, Banco de la Republica de Colombia.
  9. Andrew M. Jones & Stefanie Schurer, 2011. "How does heterogeneity shape the socioeconomic gradient in health satisfaction?," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(4), pages 549-579, 06.
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  12. 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.
  13. James J. Heckman, 2011. "Integrating Personality Psychology into Economics," NBER Working Papers 17378, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Marco Caliendo & Deborah A. Cobb-Clark & Arne Uhlendorff, 2015. "Locus of Control and Job Search Strategies," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 97(1), pages 88-103, March.
  15. Arie Kapteyn & Jelmer Y. Ypma, 2007. "Measurement Error and Misclassification: A Comparison of Survey and Administrative Data," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 513-551.
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  19. repec:rwi:repape:0008 is not listed on IDEAS
  20. Paul J. Andrisani, 1981. "Internal-External Attitudes, Sense of Efficacy, and Labor Market Experience: A Reply to Duncan and Morgan," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 16(4), pages 658-666.
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  23. Semykina, Anastasia & Linz, Susan J., 2007. "Gender differences in personality and earnings: Evidence from Russia," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 387-410, June.
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