Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What Do We Know About Non-Cognitive Personality, Education and Earnings?

Bowles et al. (2001) find that, on average, controlling for cognitive skills reduces the years of schooling coefficient by 18%. Cognitive skills therefore represent less than a fifth of the return to schooling. The remaining 82% of the return to schooling could either be associated with more advanced cognitive skills that are not captured by basic measures, or with noncognitive skills. A different finding was recently presented by Pasche (2008) - 'What is it About Schooling That the Labor Market Rewards? The Components of the Return to Schooling'. Pasche finds that over half the return to schooling is constituted of basic cognitive skills. Either way, the bias of non-cognitive personality traits is important when estimating the returns to education.

According to Linz and Semykina (2005), personality may affect earnings through gender; they find that women's earnings are affected by personality, while men's earnings are not; the "unexplained" portion of the gender wage gap falls by as much as 12% when personality traits are included. Mueller and Plug (2004) also find that gender is important - they show that antagonistic, emotionally stable and open men enjoy substantial earnings advantages over otherwise similar individuals; whereas the labour market appears to value conscientiousness and openness to experience for women. Heineck and Anger (2008) produce evidence for a robust wage penalty associated with an external locus of control, for both men and women.

Heineck (2009 - from the recent AEA meeting) finds evidence for a negative relationship between wages and agreeableness for men, a negative relationship between wages and neuroticism for females, and a positive relationship between openness to experience and wages for women. Borghans et al. (2008 - from the recent AEA meeting) suggests that people are most productive in jobs that match their style. An oversupply of one attribute relative to the other reduces wages for people who are better with the attribute in greater supply. According to Lee (2006), issues that require further study and resolution are 1) which traits create wage differentials, and 2) two-way causality: does personality affect the wage, or does a wage premium become an incentive for a person to adopt new memes?

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