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Title: Essays on the Role of Noncognitive Skills in Decision-Making
Resulting in 1 citation.
1. McGee, Andrew Dunstan
Essays on the Role of Noncognitive Skills in Decision-Making
Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Economics, The Ohio State University, 2010.
Cohort(s): Children of the NLSY79, NLSY79, NLSY79 Young Adult
Publisher: ProQuest Dissertations & Theses (PQDT)
Keyword(s): Behavior Problems Index (BPI); Disability; GED/General Educational Diploma/General Equivalency Degree/General Educational Development; Geographical Variation; High School Diploma; Peabody Individual Achievement Test (PIAT- Math); Peabody Individual Achievement Test (PIAT- Reading); Pearlin Mastery Scale; Risk-Taking; Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSES) (see Self-Esteem); Rotter Scale (see Locus of Control); Unemployment Rate

Permission to reprint the abstract has not been received from the publisher.

While "ability" has long featured prominently in economic models and empirical studies of labor markets, economists have only recently begun to consider how personality and attitudes--noncognitive factors--influence behavior both from a theoretical and empirical standpoint. This dissertation incorporates noncognitive factors into economic models of search and educational attainment and examines how these factors influence behavior using survey and experimental data.

Chapter 1 considers how locus of control--the degree to which one believes one's actions influence outcomes--affects unemployed job search. Assuming that locus of control is a determinant of beliefs about the efficacy of search effort, the model predicts that "internal" individuals (who believe their actions determine outcomes) search more intensively and set higher reservation wages than their "external" counterparts (who believe their actions have little effect on outcomes). Using the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, I find that, consistent with these predictions, "internal" job seekers search more intensively and set higher reservation wages than do their more "external" peers, but are no better at converting search effort into job offers and earn no more than their peers upon finding employment conditional on reservation wages. The findings also indicate that very "internal" individuals hold out for excessively high wages while very "external" individuals search too little. As a result, both groups spend more time unemployed than individuals with average loci of control.

Chapter 2 tests the hypothesis that locus of control affects search behavior by influencing beliefs about the efficacy of search effort in a laboratory experiment in which subjects exert effort to generate offers. There are two experimental treatments: a limited information treatment in which subjects exert effort without knowledge of how their effort influences the generation of offers and a f ull information treatment in which subjects are informed of this relationship. I find that in the limited information treatment more "internal" subjects exert more effort and hold out for higher offers than more "external" subjects, but there is no such relationship in the full information treatment when uncertainty about the connection between effort and outcomes does not exist. In both treatments, however, I find that "externality" is positively related to the probability that an individual "quits" searching, suggesting that locus of control may play a key role in explaining "discouragement" among searchers

Chapter 3 examines how learning disabled youth fare in high school relative to observationally equivalent peers in terms of cognitive and noncognitive skills. Learning disabled youth in my sample are six percentage points more likely to graduate from high school than peers with the same measured cognitive ability. This difference cannot be explained by differences in noncognitive skills, families, or school resources. Instead, I find that learning disabled students graduate from high school at higher rates because of high school graduation policies making it easier for learning disabled youth to obtain a high school diploma. The effects of these graduation policies are even more remarkable given that I find evidence after high school that learning disabled youth have less unmeasured human capital. [NOTE: This chapter is based on the Children of the NLSY79 and the NLSY79 Young Adult.]

Bibliography Citation
McGee, Andrew Dunstan. Essays on the Role of Noncognitive Skills in Decision-Making. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Economics, The Ohio State University, 2010..