nep-neu New Economics Papers
on Neuroeconomics
Issue of 2017‒12‒11
five papers chosen by

  1. The Development of Non-Cognitive Skills in Adolescence By Peter Hoeschler; Simone Balestra; Uschi Backes-Gellner
  2. Cognitive ability and fertility amongst Swedish men. Evidence from 18 cohorts of military conscription By Martin Kolk; Kieron J. Barclay
  3. The Role of Agents’ Propensity toward Conformity and Independence in the Process of Institutional Change By Angela Ambrosino
  4. Revisiting Dynamic Complementarity in the Production of Cognitive Skill and its Implications for a Cognitive Achievement Gap Decomposition By Juan F. Castro
  5. The Effect of Pre-Service Cognitive and Pedagogical Teacher Skills on Student Achievement Gains: Evidence from German Entry Screening Exams By Bernhard Enzi

  1. By: Peter Hoeschler (University of Zurich); Simone Balestra (University of St. Gallen); Uschi Backes-Gellner (University of Zurich)
    Abstract: We use a unique longitudinal data set to study the development of non-cognitive skills in adolescence. We measure-for the first time-the development over six years of the recently introduced non-cognitive skill “Grit.“ We also measure the traditional Big Five personality traits. For Grit, we find significant within-person mean-level increases of about .5 standard deviation units for our sample of adolescent students. These increases are comparable with increases in the Big Five, where conscientiousness, agreeableness, and emotional stability also increase with similar magnitude. We show that these changes are heterogeneous and robust to reasonable measurement error.
    Keywords: non-cognitive skills, Grit, Big Five personality traits, vocational education and training
    JEL: I21 J24
    Date: 2017–10
  2. By: Martin Kolk; Kieron J. Barclay (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany)
    Abstract: We examine the relationship between cognitive ability and childbearing patterns in contemporary Sweden using administrative register data. The topic has a long history in the social sciences and has been the topic of a large number of studies, many arguing for a negative gradient between intelligence and fertility. We link fertility histories to military conscription tests with intelligences scores for all Swedish born men born 1951 to 1967. We find an overall positive relationship between intelligence scores and fertility and that is consistent across our cohorts. The relationship is most pronounced for transition to a first child, and that men with the lowest categories of IQ-scores have the fewest children. Using fixed effects models we additionally control for all factors that are shared across siblings, and after such adjustments we find a stronger positive relationship between IQ and fertility. Furthermore, we find a positive gradient within groups of different lengths of education. Compositional differences of this kind are therefore not responsible for the positive gradient we observe - instead the relationship is even stronger after controlling for both educational careers and parental background factors. In our models where we compare brothers to one another we find that relative to men with IQ 100, the group with the lowest category of cognitive ability have 0.58 fewer children, and men with the highest category have 0.14 more children.
    Keywords: Sweden, fertility, intelligence, men, military service
    JEL: J1 Z0
    Date: 2017
  3. By: Angela Ambrosino
    Abstract: This paper analyses institutional change and Veblen’s work (1907, 1914, 1919) under the perspective of cognitive economics. Particularly it focuses on two interesting issues of Veblen’s theory of economic change: 1. in Veblen’s view habits are both mental habits and behavioral habits and they play a twofold role in economic change because they are particularly relevant both as elements of propensity, and as forces resisting to change. 2 Veblen gives an exhaustive definition of instincts and habits but he does not completely explain the cognitive processes that bring changes and evolution in social habits. He develops an economic theory at the base of which there is an evolutionary view of reality and a deep awareness of the role of the human mind within the decision-making processes of choice. This paper is aimed at analyzing both issues using the interpretive tools offered by psychology and discussing the role of agents psychological propensity toward conformity and independence in explaining institutional change. The central idea is that if we better encompass the theory of conformity and independence developed in psychology (starting from Asch, 1952) in the analysis of economic institutions, we can better explain institutional change. Conformity is the effect of the pressure of social group on agents’ behavior. That concept contributes to explain resistance to change. On the other hand, psychology shows that agents are also subject to mechanisms of independence. These are key elements in explaining behavioral change. The analysis of Veblen’s instinct-habit concept under conformity-independence perspective shows interesting connections between Veblen and Hayek’s ideas of economic change. Hayek’s concept of evolution based on psychological and neurobiological aspect, in fact, is a contribution of great significance both in explaining the dual role of habits in institutional change and in understanding individual mechanisms that bring changes in social habits.
    Keywords: Institutional change, old institutional economics, cognitive economics, Veblen, Hayek
    JEL: B15 B20 B25 B52 B53
    Date: 2017–02
  4. By: Juan F. Castro (Universidad del Pacifico)
    Abstract: The literature shows evidence of dynamic complementarity in the production of cognitive skill. This means that skill attained at earlier stages increases the productivity of inputs occurring later in the life of children. For educational inputs, however, the relation between their productivity and prior cognitive achievement might not always be positive. If the input has a low cognitive demand, more advantaged students will not necessarily benefit from it, but it can be productive among less advantaged children. This is the first study to explore this possibility. I find evidence of heterogeneity in the relation between preschool cognitive achievement and the effect of primary school inputs in Peru. I find dynamic complementarity but only in the upper quintile of the school quality distribution. In the lower 20% of this distribution, a raise in preschool skill reduces the productivity of school inputs. I also propose a decomposition strategy that accounts for complementarity between preschool skill and school inputs. I use it to measure the contribution of school influences to the cognitive skill gap observed between urban and rural children in Peru. I obtain an estimate for this contribution (37%) larger than that found in previous studies that relied on a linear production function. An important implication of this is that one does not need to wait until urban and rural children share similar levels of preschool skill to exploit the equalizing potential of school influences. It is not “too late” for rural children currently at school, despite their preschool skill deficits.
    Keywords: Cognitive skill, dynamic complementarity, cognitive skill gap decomposition, Peru
    JEL: I24 O15 C18
    Date: 2017–12
  5. By: Bernhard Enzi
    Abstract: Information about teachers’ effectiveness at the hiring stage is particularly scarce despite its importance for personnel decisions. Using the German setting of teacher training, I investigate the relationship of teachers’ pre-service cognitive and pedagogical skills as measured by two state examinations and the high-school GPA on later effectiveness. I apply standard value-added models to rich German student-achievement panel data and find that being in the top quartile in these skill domains is linked with significantly higher teacher effectiveness. Better teacher skills are associated with a more efficient way of classroom management.
    Keywords: Teacher, value-added, cognitive skills, student achievement
    JEL: I21 J24 J45 H75
    Date: 2017

General information on the NEP project can be found at For comments please write to the director of NEP, Marco Novarese at <>. Put “NEP” in the subject, otherwise your mail may be rejected.
NEP’s infrastructure is sponsored by the School of Economics and Finance of Massey University in New Zealand.