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Labor Market Returns and the Evolution of Cognitive Skills: Theory and Evidence

Santiago Hermo (), Miika Päällysaho (), David Seim () and Jesse Shapiro
Additional contact information
Santiago Hermo: Brown University, Postal: Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA
Miika Päällysaho: Dept. of Economics, Stockholm University, Postal: Department of Economics, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
David Seim: Dept. of Economics, Stockholm University, Postal: Department of Economics, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

No 2021:2, Research Papers in Economics from Stockholm University, Department of Economics

Abstract: A large literature in cognitive science studies the puzzling “Flynn effect” of rising fluid intelligence (reasoning skill) in rich countries. We develop an economic model in which a cohort’s mix of skills is determined by different skills’ relative returns in the labor market and by the technology for producing skills. We estimate the model using administrative data from Sweden. Combining data from exams taken at military enlistment with earnings records from the tax register, we document an increase in the relative labor market return to logical reasoning skill as compared to vocabulary knowledge. The estimated model implies that changes in labor market returns explain 37 percent of the measured increase in reasoning skill, and can also explain the decline in knowledge. An original survey of parents, an analysis of trends in school curricula, and an analysis of occupational characteristics show evidence of increasing emphasis on reasoning as compared to knowledge.

Keywords: Flynn effect; IQ; skill investment; human capital; administrative data (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J24 J31 O52 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 61 pages
Date: 2021-08-23, Revised 2022-01-20
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-edu, nep-isf, nep-lma, nep-ltv, nep-neu and nep-tid
References: View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (1)

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Related works:
Journal Article: Labor Market Returns and the Evolution of Cognitive Skills: Theory and Evidence (2023) Downloads
Working Paper: Labor Market Returns and the Evolution of Cognitive Skills: Theory and Evidence (2022) Downloads
Working Paper: Labor Market Returns and the Evolution of Cognitive Skills: Theory and Evidence (2021) Downloads
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