Causal effects of self-control on later life


Wang, Hongbo; Duckworth, Angela Lee; Heckman, James J.; & Urzua, Sergio (2008). Causal effects of self-control on later life. 2008 Add Health Users Conference. Bethesda, MD.


As part of a large project, our research addresses the causal role of self control, both independently and in interaction with other non cognitive and cognitive capacities, for an individual’s economic, social, and health outcomes. Such outcomes encompass high school graduation, college attendance, wages, employment, mental and physical health, morbidity, delinquency, and crime. We bridge psychological scholarship on cognitive ability and other capacities with state of the art econometric techniques. Our improvements over the existing literature include more careful measurement of self control. In addition, building on methodologies recently developed by Heckman and his colleagues (2006, 2003, 2004), the current study makes efforts to tackle an array of challenges in addressing causal role of non cognitive and cognitive skills for later outcomes, such as fallibility of measures of ability (e.g., test scores and personality scales), joint (reverse) causality between such measures and schooling, and endogeneity of schooling. Following Heckman et al's (2006) previous work, we ask a fundamental question: Can variations in a wide variety of outcomes be explained by a common, low dimensional vector of cognitive ability and non cognitive abilities related to self control? The study draws on data from Waves I, II, and III of Add Health, including the latest educational module (AHAA). Among other things, our analysis will take advantage of rich information on personality traits and the longitudinality of the Add Health data. We plan to present our up to date results in July, with an emphasis on mental and physical health outcomes.


Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

2008 Add Health Users Conference


Wang, Hongbo
Duckworth, Angela Lee
Heckman, James J.
Urzua, Sergio

Year Published


City of Publication

Bethesda, MD

Reference ID