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Vim Will Win: Long-Run Effects of Motivation and Other "Noncognitive" Traits on Success

Listed author(s):
  • Greg J. Duncan
  • Rachel Dunifon
  • Dave Knutson

The impact on success of motivation, risk aversion, social capital, and a host of other "noncognitive" characteristics is assessed using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). Our intragenerational analysis uses a sample of men first observed in their 20s, and relates these traits to labor-market attainments measured 15-25 years later. Our intergenerational analysis uses a sample of men first observed in their 30s and relates these traits to the completed schooling of their children. In contrast to most previous work with these data, we find considerable analytic power for a number of traits, which, if anything, increases with the measurement interval between the traits and subsequent earnings. Taken together, our motivational measures are as powerful in accounting for future labor-market success than either completed schooling or an admittedly crude measure of cognitive skills. A very different set of traits, including church attendance and savings, predict intergenerational "success."

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Paper provided by Institute for Policy Resarch at Northwestern University in its series IPR working papers with number 96-23.

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Date of creation:
Handle: RePEc:wop:nwuipr:96-23
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