The Effects of Non-cognitive Skills on Post-Secondary Educational Choices

Department(s)/ Research Infrastructure
Education and Family
Project Status
Current Project
Project Duration
since/from 2017 to 2018
Commissioned by
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
Project Manager
Frauke Peter
Project Team/Contacts at DIW Berlin

While most students in Germany who obtain a university entrance qualification enroll in higher education, the decision to do so still depends on their socio-economic background. This difference remains even when grades, cognitive skills and other observable factors are considered. In Germany, eligible school-leavers whose parents hold a university degree are 20 percentage points more likely to enroll in higher education than those with parents without university degree. A potentially important, yet understudied in the economic literature, set of factors to explain these differences are non-cognitive skills such as personality traits.

This project analyses potential links between non-cognitive skills of students and their intention to enroll in college as well as their transition into higher education. For example, students who are more anxious or insecure might be more likely to decide against college education as its costs and benefits may seem more uncertain than those of vocational education and training. On the other hand, students who are more open to new experiences and value intellectual challenges might be more likely to enroll in college. Previous research has shown that availability of information and assessments of costs of higher education are influential factors with respect to take up of higher education. Therefore, the project also aims at examining potential effects of interactions of non-cognitive skills with these aspects with regards to (intended) college enrollment.

The project is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and uses data from the National Educational Panel Study (NEPS).