Despite the extent and persistence of regional differences in student achievement, they are poorly understood. This column suggests that patience – in the context of the relative valuation
of present versus future payoffs – is closely related to regional student achievement gaps in Italy and the US. Using data from Facebook, the authors construct subnational measures of
patience and find that they account for two-thirds of achievement variation across Italian regions and one-third of the variation across the US. Recent evidence showing that traits like
patience can be improved through specific interventions suggests these findings could have significant policy implications.