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I gave this presentation at the Character & Resilience Summit at Admiralty House that was organised by Baroness Claire Tyler and Damian Hinds MP at the all party parliamentary group on social ...

I gave this presentation at the Character & Resilience Summit at Admiralty House that was organised by Baroness Claire Tyler and Damian Hinds MP at the all party parliamentary group on social mobility. I was asked to share the evidence on how character capabilities develop across the life-course and the impact that so called 'soft skills' have on a range of life outcomes.

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  • Everyone’s talking about character – but what exactly is it?A lot of chat about how it’s ‘hidden’Paul Tough (Whatever it takes) on geoffreycanada’sharlem children’s zoneDavid brooks ?Character Inquiry – investigating the role of character in shaping outcomes and its use in public policy discussions
  • Is character about healthy psychological development or is it a moral question about ‘being good’?Character as a set of capabilities – BOTH instrumental to a successful life, also key to living a Good life. - aristotelian and liberal And something important in seeing character as a skill because it implies that you can build it, and measure your progress; and clear that they are skills that individuals can apply to their own ends – this is key to a policy approach to building characterBut they are also virtues and therefore important to being good as well as effective, this is also important esp considering the many examples of bad character that are having a negative effect on society today – expenses scandal, banking crisis, to the riots
  • Putting to one side for now…Whether a skill or virtue or both, it matters more. Shift from manufacturing to service economy; contemporary culture of instant gratification where levels of personal debt and obesity are higher than ever beforeBut character and soft skills important not just for social mobility based on income, but also for broader wellbeing: self control, resilience, and empathy have been shown to be crucial factors in all sorts of outcomes from healthy lifestyles, to maintaining and building good relationships, being a good parent, bouncing back from setbacks, etc.
  • And we can look at this purely in terms of soft skills development: Income quintile on soft skills outcomes at age 5
  • As wealth gap has increased and social mobility has plateaued What it shows is that the test scores of high-intelligence low-class kids (at two years old) are overtaken by low-intelligence high-class kids by the age of seven, and most of this is happening between ages two and 4. Something very important goes on in the home and in the child care environment – before kids are getting to school. WHAT TEST SCORES ARE BEING USED HERE? In a recent US study, half the gap in ‘school readiness’ between children in affluent and poorer families was explained through home environment and parenting (Waldfogel, ‘bad parents widen ability gap’)
  • 7 key truths report ie that “Heckman found a clear economic return for investing in these skills early in children, particularly disadvantaged children. Focusing solely earnings gains, returns to cash invested were as high as 15-17%”

Character & resilience summit slides final Character & resilience summit slides final Presentation Transcript

  • THE ROLE OF CHARACTER IN SHAPING SOCIAL MOBILITY Jen Lexmond February 6, 2013 Character and Resilience Summit
  • David Cameron MP: “Truly ground-breaking…For those who care about fairness and inequality, this is one of the most important findings in a generation. It would be over the top to say that it is to social science what E=MC2 was to physics, but I think it is a real 'sit up and think' moment. That discovery defined the laws of relativity; this one is the new law for social mobility”. – launch of the Character Inquiry, Jan ‘10
  • WHAT IS CHARACTER? Character is a set of capabilities that are about both being good and being successful. Importantly character is a process of development; the foundations are set in the early years, but it can be developed across the life course.
  • CHARACTER MATTERS • Heckman (University of Chicago): non-cognitive skills matter more than cognitive skills in shaping life outcomes • Feinstein (Institute of Education): psychological and behavioural attributes in childhood have substantial implications for adult outcomes: – Self-esteem predictive of future earnings for girls and boys – Conduct disorder in boys predicts later adult unemployment – For girls ‘locus of control’ – or agency – particularly important predictor of labour market success
  • (A SNAPSHOT OF THE EVIDENCE BASE) • Feinstein, The Relative Economic Importance of Academic, Psychological and Behavioural Attributes Developed in Childhood; Kiernan and Huerta, ‘Economic deprivation, maternal depression, parenting and children’s cognitive and emotional development in early childhood’; Margo, Freedom’s Orphans. • Peterson, C., Seligman, M.E. (2004). Character Strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Oxford: Oxford University Press. • Margo, Freedom’s Orphans; Feinstein and Bynner, ‘The importance of cognitive development in middle childhood for adulthood socioeconomic status, mental health, and problem behavior’. • JJ Heckman, ‘Policies to foster human capital’, Research in Economics 54, no 1, 2000, pp 3–56.
  • • ‘Soft skills’ became over 10x more important in determining future earnings in one generation (ippr, Freedom‟s Orphans) • ‘Intangible skills’ went from 20% to 70% of the value of the US’s top 500 companies from 1980 to 2006 (Accenture) • Instant gratification culture has led to rising rates of obesity and personal debt: Americans have 2.5 times more debt today than thirty years ago and are twice as likely to be obese as in 1980. CHARACTER MATTERS MORE THAN BEFORE
  • POVERTY MATTERS
  • …AND IT MATTERS MORE THAN BEFORE TOO Feinstein, L (2003) „How early can we predict future educational achievement? Very early‟
  • Returns to a Unit Pound Invested GET IN EARLY clear economic return for investing in these skills early in children, particularly disadvantaged children. Focusing solely earnings gains, returns to cash invested were as high as 15-17%
  • (ANOTHER SNAPSHOT OF THE EVIDENCE BASE) • Bor, „The relationship between low family income and psychological disturbance in young children‟. • Atkinson, Parents and Children; Duncan, and Brooks-Gunn, Consequences of Growing up Poor; Shonkoff and Phillips, From Neurons to Neighborhoods; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Early Child Care Research Network, „Duration and developmental timing of poverty and children‟s cognitive and social development from birth through third grade‟. • Becker, A Treatise on the Family; Becker and Tomes, „Human capital and the rise and fall of families‟; Blau, „The effect of income on child development‟. • Feinstein, L, „How early can we predict future educational achievement? Very early‟ from CentrePiece, summer 2003 and based on Discussion Paper 404, which can be found at the Centre for Economic Performance.
  • Policy makers, the education, family, and youth sector, and the social research community need to come together to: 1) Identify character building programmes 2) Build consistency in defining and measuring character 3) Link outcomes to future costs and benefits 4) Help commissioners navigate the landscape charactercountsgroup.org CHARACTER COUNTS…LET’S COUNT IT