Character Matters

According to the Webster Dictionary, character is "the way a person THINKS, FEELS and BEHAVES,".  Nobel prize-winning economist, James Heckman (Heckman and Rubinstein, 2001) argues that beyond academic knowledge and technical skills, character skills, also referred to as non-cognitive skills, are crucial for outcomes later in life, including success in the labor market.  

James Heckman adds, "A growing body of empirical research shows that character skills rival IQ in predicting educational attainment, labor market success, health and criminality" (Heckman & Kautz, 2013).   

A recent longitudinal study at Boston Public Schools by Harvard University and a number of other prominent collaborators found that higher self reported non-cognitive skills are correlated with better attendance, behavior and test scores" for students in 4th through 8th grade (West, et al., 2014).

Hackman's findings are also supported by Gutman & Schoon who studied the impact of non-cognitive skills on outcomes for young people and found that self-efficacy, and individual's belief that they have the ability to successfully complete tasks and reach goals, is foundational for building the motivation necessary to improve (Gutman & Schoon, 2013).



Gutman, L. M. & School, I. (2013). The impact of non-cognitive skills on outcomes for young people. The London: Institute of Education. Retrieved from

Heckman, J. & Rubinstein, Y. (2001). The importance of noncognitive skills: Lessons from the GED testing program. American Economic Review, 91(2), 145-149.

Heckman, James J., and Tim Kautz. "Fostering and Measuring Skills: Interventions That Improve Character and Cognition." National Bureau of Economic Research, 2013.  

“Character.” Merriam-Webster, 24 Feb 2016.

West, M., Kraft, M., Finn, A., Martin, R., Duckworth, A., Gabrieli, C., Gabrieli, J. (2014). Promise and paradox: Measuring students’ non-cognitive skills and the impact of schooling. Working Paper. Retrieved from: