Educational Inequality and Non-Cognitive Skills: Evidence from Siblings

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IZA Seminar

Place: Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 9, 53113 Bonn

Date: 08.04.2014, 12:15 - 13:30


Presentation by 

Shelly Lundberg (University of California, Santa Barbara)


Research and policy discussion about the diverging fortunes of children from advantaged and disadvantaged households in the United States have focused on the skill disparities (both cognitive and non-cognitive) between these children—how they might arise and how they might be remediated. Previous analysis of educational attainment in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) showed that there are also differential returns to skills for children in different circumstances (Lundberg, 2013). Though the returns to cognitive ability are generally consistent across family background groups, personality traits have very different effects on educational attainment for young men and women with access to different levels of parental resources. These results are consistent with a model in which the provision of focused effort in school is complementary with parental inputs while openness, associated with imagination and exploration, is a substitute for information provision by educated parents and thus contributes to resilience in low-resource environments. The intergenerational transmission of psychological traits, however, makes it difficult to attribute these effects to individual, rather than family, characteristics. In this paper, I use the genetic oversample in the Add Health Study to show that the results are robust in mother fixed-effects models and explore some possible mechanisms driving differential returns to skills.

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