Exploring the role of parental engagement in non-cognitive skill development over the lifecourse

05 November 2021

We examine the role that parental engagement with child’s education plays in the lifecourse dynamics of locus of control (LOC), one of the most widely studied non-cognitive skills related to economic decision-making. We focus on parental engagement as previous studies have shown that it is malleable, easy to measure, and often available for fathers, whose inputs are notably understudied in the received literature. We estimate a standard skill production function using rich British cohort data. Parental engagement is measured with information provided at age 10 by the teacher on whether the father or the mother is very interested in the child’s education. We deal with the potential endogeneity in parental engagement by employing an added-value model, using lagged measures of LOC as a proxy for innate endowments and unmeasured inputs. We find that fathers’, but not mothers’, engagement leads to internality, a belief associated with positive lifetime outcomes, in both young adulthood and middle age for female and socioeconomically disadvantaged cohort members. Fathers’ engagement also increases the probability of lifelong internality and fully protects against lifelong externality. Our findings highlight that fathers play a pivotal role in the skill production process over the lifecourse.