Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education Policy (PhD)

Degree Level



Education Reform


Jay P. Greene

Committee Member

Patrick J. Wolf

Second Committee Member

Gema Zamarro


Education, Careless answers, Conscientiousness, Item nonresponse, Non-cognitive skills, Personality, Survey methods


I propose a new approach to measuring character skills. In the following three essays, my co-‎authors and I measure the effort that adolescent students appear to put forward on surveys ‎and tests. First, I examine the extent to which students simply skip questions or plead ‎ignorance on surveys. Second, I develop new methods for detecting careless answers, those ‎instances in which students appear to be "just filling in the bubbles." I show, using ‎longitudinal datasets, that both measures are predictive of educational degree attainment, ‎independent of measured cognitive ability and other demographic factors. Finally, I ‎demonstrate that international differences in reading, math and science test scores appear in ‎fact to partially reflect international differences in student effort on assessments. Just as some ‎students skip questions and carelessly answer surveys, some students do the same on tests. To ‎the extent that effort on surveys and tests reflects noncognitive skills, presumed international ‎differences in cognitive ability (as measured by standardized tests) might in fact be driven by ‎differences in noncognitive ability. Altogether, the measures explored in the paper present ‎three new methods for quantifying student character skills, which can be used in future ‎research. Throughout, my co-authors and I posit that the character skills that our measures ‎capture are related to conscientiousness and self-control. ‎