Angela Duckworth

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Angela Duckworth
Angela Duckworth, 2017 (cropped).jpg
Angela Duckworth, in 2017
Born1970 (age 52–53)
Alma materHarvard College
University of Oxford
University of Pennsylvania
Jason Duckworth
(m. 1998)
AwardsMacArthur Fellowship
Marshall Scholarship
Scientific career

Angela Lee Duckworth (born 1970) is an American academic, psychologist, and popular science author. She is the Rosa Lee and Egbert Chang Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studies grit and self-control. She is also the Founder and CEO of Character Lab, a not-for-profit whose mission is to advance the science and practice of character development.


Duckworth was born in 1970 to Chinese immigrants.[1] Her father Ying Kao Lee (1933-2020) was a chemist with DuPont and invented Lucite dispersion lacquer.[2] She grew up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey[3] and graduated from Cherry Hill High School East.[4]

Duckworth earned a B.A. in Neurobiology at Harvard College in 1992.[5] She then graduated from the University of Oxford in 1996 with an M.Sc. in neuroscience on a Marshall Scholarship, and from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006 with a Ph.D. in psychology.[6][7] She was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2013.[7]

After obtaining a master's degree, Duckworth was a management consultant at McKinsey & Company. She quit about a year later to become a math teacher at Lowell High School (San Francisco).[8]

Duckworth's first book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, was released in May 2016.[9] It stayed on The New York Times bestseller list for 21 weeks.[10] A review of the book in The New York Times called Duckworth "the psychologist who has made 'grit' the reigning buzzword in education-policy circles."[11]

Duckworth is currently the co-host of the podcast No Stupid Questions on the Freakonomics network.[12][13]


Duckworth is best known for her research on grit, a strength she defines as passion and perseverance for long-term goals.[1][14][15] She developed the Grit Scale, a measure of this construct.[15][16]

Duckworth has found grit to be a common factor among the high-achievers she has studied.[15] Her work suggests that grit is unrelated to IQ but is closely related to conscientiousness.[14][15] Grit has been studied across the lifespan, but Duckworth focuses primarily on how building grit can help adolescents.[9] This falls under the umbrella of character education and the movement to expand school instruction beyond solely cognitive factors.

Since the introduction of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015, there has been a growing call for effective ways to measure character strengths.[17] However, Duckworth herself has encouraged caution when applying and, especially, testing character in classrooms.[18] One reason is that existing measures were designed for scientific purposes, and so as yet there are no reliable ways to measure grit in high-stakes situations, like college admissions or job applications.[19]

Some claim that focusing on grit would lead to the neglect of other important factors, like the positive socio-economic prerequisites necessary to deploy it.[20] Duckworth has acknowledged the importance of environmental factors, saying that it's not that one matters more than the other but rather that they both matter: "The question is not whether we should concern ourselves with grit or structural barriers to achievement. In the most profound sense, both are important, and more than that, they are intertwined."[21]

Grit has had its share of critics. A 2017 meta-analysis found that "grit is only moderately correlated with performance and retention," and that it had not been adequately distinguished from several previously studied constructs, including conscientiousness, persistence, and industriousness.[22] In a 2021 article, Duckworth acknowledged that she had misinterpreted the psychometric properties of her Grit scale.[23]


  1. ^ a b Denby, David (2016-06-21). "The Limits of "Grit"". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
  2. ^ "Ying Kao Lee, DuPont inventor of lacquer that kept cars shiny, dies at 87".
  3. ^ Hartnett, Kevin (2012). "Character's content" (PDF). The Pennsylvania Gazette. May–June: 58–63.
  4. ^ Del Giudice, Marguerite. "Grit Trumps Talent and IQ: A Story Every Parent (and Educator) Should Read; Angela Duckworth and her team devise strategies to help students learn how to work hard and adapt in the face of temptation, distraction, and defeat.", National Geographic, October 14, 2014. Accessed February 12, 2020. "Angie's favorite teacher at Cherry Hill High School East was Matthew Carr, who taught English and has just retired after 40 years."
  5. ^ "Psychology Professor Angela Duckworth to Give Penn's 2017 Baccalaureate Address". Penn Today. Retrieved 2020-03-11.
  6. ^ "Angela Duckworth". University of Pennsylvania, Department of Psychology. Retrieved 2013-11-07.
  7. ^ a b "Angela Duckworth". MacArthur Foundation. 2013-09-25. Retrieved 2013-11-07. Age: 43
  8. ^ Duckworth, Angela (2016). Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Scribner.
  9. ^ a b Cocozza, Paula (2016-05-07). "Is grit the true secret of success?". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-03-11.
  10. ^ "Paperback Nonfiction Books - Best Sellers - Feb. 3, 2019 - The New York Times". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
  11. ^ Shulevitz, Judith (May 4, 2016). "'Grit,' by Angela Duckworth". The New York Times. Retrieved August 16, 2016.
  12. ^ "No Stupid Questions". Freakonomics. Retrieved 2021-03-20.
  13. ^ "The best job interview question, according to Angela Duckworth of "Grit" fame". Quartz at Work. Retrieved 2021-03-20.
  14. ^ a b Engber, Daniel (2016-05-08). "Is "Grit" Really the Key to Success?". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
  15. ^ a b c d Duckworth, Angela L.; Peterson, Christopher; Matthews, Michael D.; Kelly, Dennis R. (2007). "Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 92 (6): 1087–1101. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.92.6.1087. ISSN 1939-1315. PMID 17547490.
  16. ^ Duckworth, Angela Lee; Quinn, Patrick D. (2009-02-17). "Development and Validation of the Short Grit Scale (Grit–S)". Journal of Personality Assessment. 91 (2): 166–174. doi:10.1080/00223890802634290. ISSN 0022-3891. PMID 19205937. S2CID 15232924.
  17. ^ "ESSA Law Broadens Definition of School Success". Education Week. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
  18. ^ Duckworth, Angela (2016-03-26). "Opinion | Don't Grade Schools on Grit". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
  19. ^ Duckworth & Yeager (2015). "Measurement matters: Assessing personal qualities other than cognitive ability for educational purposes" (PDF). Educational Researcher. 44 (4): 237–251. doi:10.3102/0013189x15584327. PMC 4849415. PMID 27134288.
  20. ^ Rose, Mike (May 14, 2015). "Why teaching kids to have 'grit' isn't always a good thing". Washington Post.
  21. ^ "Angela Duckworth". Angela Duckworth. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
  22. ^ Credé, M.; Tynan, M.C.; Harms, P.D. (September 2017). "Much ado about grit: A meta-analytic synthesis of the grit literature". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 113 (3): 492–511. doi:10.1037/pspp0000102. PMID 27845531. S2CID 24361685.
  23. ^ Duckworth, A.L.; Quinn, P.D.; Tsukayama, E. (July 2021). "Revisiting the Factor Structure of Grit: A Commentary on Duckworth and Quinn (2009)". Journal of Personality Assessment. 103 (5): 573–575. doi:10.1080/00223891.2021.1942022.

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