Thursday, July 26, 2012

26/7/2012: Soft Skills - Survey of Evidence


A superb survey of the literature on soft skills (major component of human capital) published by IZA (DP No. 6580 May 2012) and written by my old prof: James J. Heckman and Tim Kautz, titled "Hard Evidence on Soft Skills". H/T to Professor Liam Delaney for spotting the paper.

The paper summarizes recent evidence on 
  • what achievement tests measure; 
  • how achievement tests relate to other measures of “cognitive ability” like IQ and grades; 
  • the important skills that achievement tests miss or mismeasure, and 
  • how much these skills matter in life. 
Core conclusions are: 
  • Achievement tests miss, or perhaps more accurately, do not adequately capture, soft skills – personality traits, goals, motivations, and preferences that are valued in the labor market, in school, and in many other domains. Incidentally, this is straight confirmation of the Nozickian bais (see here).
  • Ssoft skills predict success in life, causally produce that success, and 
  • Programs that enhance soft skills have an important place in an effective portfolio of public policies
Awesome to see this work summarized.


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