Date of Graduation

Spring 5-18-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in International and Development Economics (MSIDEC)

First Advisor

Yaniv Stopnitzky


Personality characteristics and non-cognitive skills are strong determinants of decision- making and economic outcomes. Personality is commonly believed to be stable, especially after age 30, though some evidence exists that changes in occupational or social roles, or exposure to family or health shocks, can change an individual’s personality traits in the medium or long term. Evidence on short-term impacts of shocks on personality, however, is lacking, as is evidence from rural and less educated populations. In this paper, we study the short-term effects of two kinds of shocks on personality traits among young adults from ultra-poor households in Uganda. In particular, we examine experimentally the impact of an income-generating asset distribution as well as a particular climate shock—recent exposure to drought—on Big Five personality traits. We find that the poverty graduation program significantly increased scores on traits that represent socialization and stability by up to 0.21 standard deviations while drought decreased scores on these traits by up to 0.26 standard deviations. However, these shocks did not have a discernible effect on traits that represent personal growth and plasticity. These results add to a growing literature on the psychology of poverty, which suggests that various psychological variables are endogenous to poverty and that economic interventions can alter psychology and improve non-cognitive skills.


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