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Self-Control: Measurement, Predictors, Consequences and Policy Implications (SOEP-IS)

  • Period: 2019 - 2023
  • Funding: Sozioökonomisches Panel - Innovation Sample (SOEP-IS), ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course, Australia (2020-2028), Australian Research Council, Project DP200100979

Short description of the project

Self-control, that is an individual’s ability to delay gratification, requires willpower and causes
immediate costs to gain a future reward. In order to reach the desired weight until the next
beach holiday an individual has to forgo, for instance, a piece of cake after having lunch. The
ability to exert self-control is fundamental to understanding human behavior as it allows people
to override their impulses and achieve long-term goals. This high relevance in people’s everyday
life makes self-control one of the most studied concepts across the spectrum of social sciences.
Still, so far empirical evidence on self-control is limited to small and non-representative data
sets. To overcome this lack representative evidence, we successfully proposed the inclusion of a
self-control measure into the German Socio-economic Panel Study–Innovation Sample
(SOEP–IS). We assess trait self-control using the German version of the well-established Brief
Tangney Self-Control Scale. Moreover, our measurement tools allow accounting for the lack of
awareness that many people have regarding their own self-control abilities. We can distinguish
between time-consistent individuals as well as those who have limited self-control and are
either aware or not aware of it, i.e. sophisticated and naïve individuals according to the
classification of O’Donoghue and Rabin (1999). We will empirically investigate both predictors
of self-control such as gender, age, socioeconomic status or cognitive ability and its
consequences for human capital investments, poverty and savings, health (behaviors), and
inter-temporal decision making in general. Understanding both how self-control relates to these
key life outcomes and how this might differ along the full range of individual characteristics such
as age and socioeconomic status in representative data provides a unique opportunity to learn
about the optimal design of social and economic policy. For example, work incentives in
programs like the unemployment benefits system may need to account for agents’ self-control
issues in order to live up to their potential.

Involved Employees in the project

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