July 2019

IZA DP No. 12488: Self-Control: Determinants, Life Outcomes and Intergenerational Implications

updated version published as 'The Predictive Power of Self-Control for Life Outcomes' in: Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 2022, 197, 725-744

This paper studies self-control in a nationally representative sample. Using the well-established Tangney scale to measure trait self-control, we find that people's age as well as the political and economic institutions they are exposed to have an economically meaningful impact on their level of self-control. A higher degree of self-control is, in turn, associated with better health, educational and labor market outcomes as well as greater financial and overall well-being. Parents' self-control is linked to reduced behavioral problems among their children. Importantly, we demonstrate that self-control is a key behavioral economic construct which adds significant explanatory power beyond other more commonly studied personality traits and economic preference parameters. Our results suggest that self-control is potentially a good target for intervention policies.