Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10419/227248
Authors: 
Edwards, Rebecca
Gibson, Rachael
Harmon, Colm P.
Schurer, Stefanie
Year of Publication: 
2020
Series/Report no.: 
IZA Discussion Papers No. 13721
Publisher: 
Institute of Labor Economics (IZA), Bonn
Abstract: 
We study the role of non-cognitive skills in academic performance of students who are the first in their family to attend university. We collected survey data on an incoming student cohort from a leading Australian university and linked the survey with students' administrative entry and performance records. First-in-family students have lower grade point averages by about a quarter of a standard deviation than the average student. This performance penalty is larger for young men. The penalty is strongest in the first semester but disappears over time. Some non-cognitive skills (Conscientiousness, Extraversion) predict academic performance almost as strongly as standardised university admissions test scores. High levels of Conscientiousness over-compensate for the performance penalty experienced by first-in-family students, while very low levels exacerbate it. However, adjusting for extreme responses in self-assessed Conscientiousness with anchoring vignettes eliminates the performance advantage of disadvantaged, but highly conscientious students. Overall, our findings accentuate the importance of non-cognitive skills as key indicators of university readiness, and their potential for closing the socioeconomic gap in academic performance.
Subjects: 
non-cognitive skills
university performance
socioeconomic gradient in education
first-in-family
linked survey and administrative data
anchoring vignettes
JEL: 
A22
J24
Document Type: 
Working Paper

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