Character Skills & Skill Formation

Assessing the Role and Impact of Non-Cognitive Skills

Life success depends on more than cognitive skills. Non-cognitive characteristics–including physical and mental health, as well as perseverance, attentiveness, motivation, self-confidence, and other socio-emotional qualities–are also essential. American public policy currently focuses principally on cognitive test scores or ‘smarts.’ Yet an emerging literature confirms the common sense idea that success in life depends on much more than smarts. Non-cognitive abilities also have a large impact on earnings, employment, labor force experience, college attendance, teenage pregnancy, participation in risky activities, compliance with health protocols, and participation in crime.