University education and non-cognitive skill development

Sonja C. Kassenboehmer, Felix Leyung, Stefanie Schurer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


We examine the effect of university education on students' non-cognitive skills (NCS) using high-quality Australian longitudinal data. To isolate the skill-building effects of tertiary education, we follow the education decisions and NCS-proxied by the Big Five personality traits-of 575 adolescents over eight years. Estimating a standard skill production function, we demonstrate a robust positive relationship between university education and extraversion, and agreeableness for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The effects are likely to operate through exposure to university life rather than through degree-specific curricula or university-specific teaching quality. As extraversion and agreeableness are associated with socially beneficial behaviours, we propose that university education may have important non-market returns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)538-562
Number of pages25
JournalOxford Economic Papers
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • Non cognitive skills
  • University
  • personality
  • Human capital

Cite this