Center on Children and Families

Character & Opportunity Project

Two of the most important areas of contemporary social and economic research are opportunity (intergenerational social mobility) and character (or “non-cognitive skills”). The Character and Opportunity Project will examine the connection between the two. In short: to look at how character shapes opportunity, and how opportunity builds character.

Specifically, there is limited hard evidence connecting the development of specific character virtues with the promotion of social mobility. The Project aims to help fill this gap by identifying and weighing key character virtues for generating greater opportunity, as well as pointing other researchers and policymakers towards the specification, assessment, and promotion of the most promising character virtues for improving life chances.

Advisory Panel

  David Brooks
Brooks is a columnist at the New York Times and a regular commentator on the PBS NewsHour, where his work focuses on political and cultural commentary. His most recent book is The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement
  Stuart M. Butler
Stuart is a Distinguished Fellow and Director of the Center for Policy Innovation at the Heritage Foundation. He has worked on numerous critical issues from health care and Social Security to welfare reform and tax relief.
  James J. Heckman
James J. Heckman, a co-recipient of the 2000 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, is professor of economics and law at the University of Chicago. His work focuses on of the impact of social programs, human development and lifecycle skill formation, with a special emphasis on the economics of early childhood.
  Isabel Sawhill
Isabel Sawhill is co-director of the Center on Children and Families and the Budgeting for National Priorities Project at Brookings. Her work focuses onbudgetary issues, family formation, opportunity, domestic poverty and federal fiscal policy.
  Carmit Segal
Carmit Segal is a professor of economics at University of Zurich. Her research focuses on labor economics, experimental/behavioral economics, and personnel economics, including work on the role of incentives in motivation.
  Martin Seligman
Martin Seligman is Director of the Penn Positive Psychology Center and Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology in the Penn Department of Psychology. His work focuses on Positive Psychology, resilience, learned helplessness, depression, optimism and pessimism.
  Paul Tough
Paul Tough is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine, where he has written extensively about education, parenting, poverty, and politics. Most recently, he is the author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, focusing on the importance of non-cognitive skills.