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Openness to New Experience and Conscientiousness Can Add 8% and More to Employee Earnings

Positive noncognitive skills drive success

ISTOCK

According to HSE Laboratory for Labour Market Studies researchers Ksenia Rozhkova and Sergey Roshchin, conscientious people are less likely to become unemployed, while a combination of conscientiousness, openness to experience, and emotional stability is associated with higher pay. The study is published in  Higher Education in Russia and Beyond.

What factors determine one's career success? Some appear obvious, such as the type and quality of education, professional skills and experience, and overall intelligence. Social scientists often refer to these characteristics collectively as human capital. However, there are other factors which shape one's everyday behaviour and decision-making, such as conscientiousness, openness to new experience, emotional stability, agreeableness, taking responsibility for one's actions, and extraversion or introversion. These are collectively known as non-cognitive skills or personality traits. Partly inherited and partially developed during childhood, these traits tend to remain unchanged throughout one's working life.

The so-called ‘Big Five’ is a well-accepted taxonomy of non-cognitive traits that includes conscientiousness manifested as diligence, attention to detail, and perseverance; extraversion, or sociability, assertiveness and adventurousness; neuroticism that reflects emotional instability, vulnerability to stress, impulsiveness and irritability; openness to experience associated with curiosity, creativity and a good imagination; and agreeableness expressed as being cooperative, sympathetic, trusting, and sensitive. Alongside the Big Five, individuals can be described through their locus of control, or one's tendency to attribute responsibility for whatever happens to them to oneself (internal locus of control) or to other people, luck, or circumstances (external locus of control). 

The study authors used data from the HSE Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey (RLMS-HSE), in which some questions made it possible to assess the respondents' non-cognitive skills. The sample included 5,600 respondents.

Non-cognitive skills can have a strong effect on one's choice of educational strategy, including their academic achievement and the decision to pursue higher education. Evidence reveals that people who are conscientious, open to new experience and emotionally stable, and who have an internal locus of control are more likely to be academically successful and to attain higher levels of education. Conscientiousness and neuroticism also correlate with the likelihood of enrolment in top (and therefore more demanding) national universities.

Conscientiousness appears to be essential to becoming and staying employed (people ranking high on this trait are less likely to be out of employment), and those who combine it with openness and emotional stability can expect higher pay. This can be described in terms of standard deviation—a measure of how spread out numbers are in relation to the mean. In two-thirds of respondents, non-cognitive skills were in the range of one standard deviation from the mean value. The authors' calculations demonstrate that an increase in conscientiousness by one standard deviation raises the likelihood of employment by 6%, while the same increase in openness and conscientiousness adds 8% to one's earnings.

These traits [the Big Five— ed.] are partly inherited genetically and partially shaped during the early stages of socialisation. Parental investments enable the development of these skills, which further affects the development of cognitive abilities. Early development of positive non-cognitive skills has long-term effects on adult outcomes; these traits can offset the intergenerational transmission of inequality.

Ksenia Rozhkova,
Study co-author, postgraduate student of the HSE Faculty of Economic Sciences, junior research fellow of the HSE Laboratory for Labour Market Studies

IQ
 

Study authors:
Ksenia Rozhkova, Postgraduate Student, HSE Faculty of Economic Sciences; Junior Research Fellow, HSE Laboratory of Labour Market Studies