Jump to contentJump to search

Towards a Better Understanding of the Development of Non-Cognitive Skills in Children: Malleability, Sensitive Periods, Typical Trajectories, and Transmission within the Family (DFG)

  • Laufzeit des Projektes: 2018 - 2020
  • Finanzierung: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

A short description of the project

Non-cognitive skills are key predictors of central life outcomes such as educational attainment, job performance, earnings, health outcomes, and participation in risky behaviors. Despite their fundamental importance, we know surprisingly little about how non-cognitive skills form.

This is the starting point of this research program. It aims at substantially advancing our understanding of the formation of non-cognitive skills in childhood and adolescence. In defining non-cognitive skills, our project adopts the interdisciplinary and multidimensional approach in the emerging field of personality psychology and economics. In this field, the definition of non-cognitive skills encompasses both economic preferences (time, risk, and social preferences) and personality traits from psychology as the so-called Big Five.

We follow a multi-method approach in measuring non-cognitive skills that combines incentivized experiments, well-established scales, and validated survey items, which will allow for reducing measurement error. By combining the collection of comprehensive panel data on non-cognitive skills of whole families with a randomized controlled trial (RCT) design, we will provide causal evidence on investments as possible drivers of skill formation on top of cutting-edge descriptive evidence on the formation of non-cognitive skills in childhood and adolescence. In particular, some children in our sample will be randomly assigned to participation in the well-established social and emotional learning program “Lions Quest” that is designed to build up children’s non-cognitive skills and positive attitudes. Using the model of skill formation as a common underlying theoretical framework, we will address five research questions. We will analyze the short- and longer-run malleability of non-cognitive skills via a social and emotional learning program, empirically identify sensitive periods and multiplier effects in the process of skill formation, provide first comprehensive evidence on individual trajectories in the development of economic preferences, and offer new insights on the transmission of non-cognitive skills within the whole family.

The expected innovative insights will both promote basic research on the formation of non-cognitive skills at the intersection of economics and psychology and offer advice to parents, teachers, and policy makers alike on how to foster the development of non-cognitive skills in children. Last and perhaps most importantly, our project is likely to positively affect the non-cognitive skills of poor and disadvantaged children in rural Bangladesh, enhancing their chances for better life outcomes.

Involved Employees in the project


Responsible for the content: