Jiaming Soh, Kegon T. K. Tan

While many studies have shown that parental skills are important for child outcomes, whether this derives from non-genetic mechanisms is less clear. We investigate the nurture effects of parental cognitive and socio-emotional skills in producing college attainment of offspring, modeling socio-emotional skills as latent factors based on the Big Five taxonomy of personality. By studying a sample of adopted children whose parents are respondents of the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, we identify non-genetic effects of parental skills on college attainment. We address possible non-random adoption assignment by accounting for institutional policies regarding the adoption process and the compositional change of adoptees in Wisconsin during the period covered by our sample. We find that parental IQ and Openness act positively on child college attainment, while Agreeableness has a negative impact. A 1 s.d. difference in each of the skills translates to a 5-6 p.p. difference in college attainment, similar to the effect size of income. Finally we find that the nurture effects of IQ and Agreeableness are largely driven by fathers, whilst that of Openness is driven by mothers.

Publication Type
Working Paper
File Description
First version, October 9, 2019
JEL Codes
I24: Education and Inequality
J24: Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
J62: Job, Occupational, and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion
human capital
intergenerational mobility
cognitive skills
non-cognitive skills