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character skills, grit, conscientiousness, behavioral tasks, survey effort


Though researchers now are aware of the potential importance of character skills, such as conscientiousness, grit, self-control, and a growth mindset, researchers struggle to find reliable measures of these skills. In this paper, we use data collected from the Understanding America Study, a nationally representative internet panel to study the validity of innovative measures of character skills based on measures of survey effort. We believe surveys themselves can be seen as a behavioral tasks and that respondents provide meaningful information about their character skills by way of the effort they put forward on surveys. In particular, we compare measures of grit, conscientiousness and other personality traits, and growth mindset, based on self-reports, and survey effort measures of character. We study the relationship across each other and their relationship with academic and life outcomes such as income and labor-market outcomes, after controlling for cognitive ability and other relevant demographic characteristics. Our results show that survey effort measures of character skills, in particular measures of careless answering in surveys, show great promise for being good proxy measures of relevant non-cognitive skills.


EDRE Working Paper 2016-08