Non-cognitive skills
improve life outcomes:
the evidence

Empirical evidence of how non-cognitive skills improve a range of outcomes in life has been widely documented. This page is an introduction to some of the key research of the last 10 years in this field.

2011 meta-analysis of 213 SEL programs:

“SEL programs yielded significant positive effects on targeted social-emotional competencies and attitudes about self, others, and school. They also enhanced students’ behavioural adjustment in the form of increased prosocial behaviours and reduced conduct and internalizing problems”.

2017 meta-analysis of 82 different interventions, more than 97,000 K-12 students:

“Conduct problems, emotional distress, and drug use were all significantly lower for students exposed to SEL programs, and development of social and emotional skills and positive attitudes toward self, others, and school was higher”.

Belfield et al., 2015: The Economic Value of Social and Emotional Learning:

This report reveals, on average, that every dollar invested in SEL programming yields $11 in long-term benefits. These benefits include reduced juvenile crime, higher lifetime earnings, and better mental and physical health.

​American Enterprise Institute + Brookings Institution, 2015:

“SEL competencies are critically important for the long-term success of all students in today’s economy.” A bipartisan 2015 report recommends several steps to scale up high-quality, evidence based SEL programs as a core component of children’s education.

Jones, Greenberg & Crowley, 2015. American Journal of Public Health:

“There are statistically significant associations between SEL skills in kindergarten and key outcomes for young adults years later. SEL decreased the likelihood of living in or being on a waiting list for public housing, receiving public assistance, having any involvement with police before adulthood, and ever spending time in a detention facility.“

Gutman & Schoon, 2016. A synthesis of causal evidence linking non-cognitive skills to later outcomes for children and adolescents:

The team at the Institute of Education at UCL synthesized the causal evidence linking non-cognitive skills to later outcomes in children and adolescents. The authors noted that non-cognitive skills is an umbrella term and generally refer to attitudes, behaviors and strategies that can lead to success in school and at work. These skills include motivation, perseverance and self-control. They examined the experimental evidence on set of non-cognitive skills including self-perception and self-concept of ability, motivation, perseverance, engagement, grit, and self-control. The authors concluded that many of the non-cognitive skills are interlinked and the enhancement of one of the skills without improvement of the others may not lead to lasting changes in students’ lives.