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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

Involved Employees in the project


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