Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: A Nudge for Mobility: Increasing Parental Investments in Their Children

Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 2:05 PM
Merrick I (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Susan E. Mayer1, Ariel Kalil1, Sebastian Gallegos1 and Philip Oreopoulos2, (1)University of Chicago, (2)University of Toronto
Research shows that cognitive development in early childhood is best promoted if parents create learning opportunities for their children in the home environment. Unfortunately low-income children in the U.S. are far less likely than their advantaged counterparts to enjoy a cognitively stimulating home environment.

This paper reports results from the “Parents and Children Together Study,” a randomized-control experiment conducted in Head Start centers in Chicago designed to increase the amount of time low-income parents spend reading with their children. Participating parents borrow an electronic tablet that has a recordable storybook app with over 500 books in its digital library. The tablet collects objective data on the amount of parent-child reading time. The treatment group receives a behaviorally-informed intervention that includes a suite of behavioral “nudges,” including weekly goal setting, daily text-message reminders, visual feedback on weekly progress, and personal and peer recognition for meeting goals. Parents assigned to the control group receive the tablet with the storybook app and instructions for how to use it but none of the behavioral “nudges.” Results show that at the end of the 6-week intervention, parents in the experimental group spent on average more than twice as much time reading with their children from the storybook app compared to parents in the control condition. This represents a statistically significant and very large treatment impact. The treatment impact persisted for a three-week follow-up period following the cessation of the intervention.