The Persistence of Socio-Emotional Skills: Life Cycle and Intergenerational Evidence
This paper investigates the evolution of socio-emotional skills over the life cycle and across generations. We start by characterising the evolution of these skills in the first part of the life cycle. We then examine whether parents’ socio-emotional skills in early childhood rather than in adolescence are more predictive of their children’s socio-emotional skills. We exploit data from the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70) and focus on two dimensions of socio- emotional skills: internalizing and externalizing skills, linked respectively to the ability of focusing attention and engaging in interpersonal activities. When looking at the evolution of socio-emotional skills over the life cycle, we notice a considerable amount of persistence which leads to a rejection of the simple Markov dynamic models often used in the literature. The BCS70 contains data on the skills of three generations. Moreover, the skills for cohort members and their children are not observed at the same calendar time, but at similar ages. We establish that parents’ and children’s socio-emotional skills during early childhood are comparable and estimate intergenerational mobility in socio-emotional skills, examining the link between the parent’s socio-emotional skills at age 5, 10 and 16 and the child’s socio-emotional skills between ages 3 and 16. We show that the magnitudes of intergenerational persistence estimates are smaller than the magnitude of intergenerational persistence estimates in occupation and income found for the United Kingdom. Finally, we estimate multi-generational persistence in socio-emotional skills and find that the grandmother’s internalizing skill correlates with the grandchild’s socio-emotional skills even after controlling for parental skills.
We thank participants to the Barcelona GSE Research Webinar on Children’s Health, Well- Being, and Human Capital Formation. We are grateful to the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS), UCL Institute of Education, for the use of these data and to the UK Data Service for making them available. However, neither CLS nor the UK Data Service bear any responsibility for the analysis or interpretation of these data. Toppeta is grateful for support through an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) studentship with Advanced Quantitative Methods. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.