Project in detail

Making it right? Social norms, handwriting and human capital

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Can early childhood interventions compensate for innate deficits? In this paper, I study the forced right-hand writing of left-handed children (“switching”). While previous literature has found that, due to innate cognitive deficits, left-handers obtain less human capital and lower wages than ighthanders, I find that switched left-handers perform equally well or even better in the labor market than right-handers. Only non-switched left-handers exhibit the deficits of left-handers found in earlier studies. To address potential selection bias, I employ a difference-in-difference approach, where I exploit the rapid decline of switching across cohorts. Cohort trends of the outcome variables of right-handers, who were never switched, are used as a counterfactual for left-handers. Using rich data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), I show that the observed differences in outcomes occur due to differential human capital accumulation, rather than cognitive or noncognitive skills. My findings are consistent with switching compensating for the innate deficits of left-handers.

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