The Development of Early Skills: Self-Productivity and Cross-Fertilization

Jason R. Thomas, Pennsylvania State University
Katsuya Oi, Pennsylvania State University

Cunha and Heckman (2007) have developed a model of human capital formation that identifies a key feature of the developmental process – “self-productivity.”This concept refers to the notion that capabilities developed by time t - 1 enhance capabilities at later stages of development (e.g. at time t). An interesting corollary is that one dimension of development (e.g. non-cognitive or social skills) fosters the develop of different dimensions of development at later stages of life (e.g. cognitive skills). This paper offers simple tests of the process of “self-productivity” using several different longitudinal data sets that contain repeated measures of cognitive and non-cognitive skills. To the extent that we find empirical support for the model developed by Cunha and Heckman (2007), the implications of the model – namely, the importance of early and continued investments in early life – should receive attention in the policy arena.

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Presented in Session 29: Education and the Life Course