Behaviorally-Informed Interventions to Promote Human Capital Development in Children and Youth
(Family and Child Policy)
Thursday, November 12, 2015: 1:45 PM-3:15 PM
Merrick I (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Ariel Kalil, University of Chicago
Panel Chairs: Kathleen Ziol-Guest, New York University
Discussants: Emily Schmitt, Administration for Children and Families
Numerous studies show large differences between the developmental outcomes of rich and poor children. These gaps open up early in life and narrow very little if at all during the school years. For instance, a child born into a poor family has only a 9 percent chance of getting a college degree, but the odds are 54 percent for a child in a high- income family.
How can we close these gaps? A new set of research studies has demonstrated the promise of low-cost light touch “behavioral nudges” designed to improve the human capital development and life chances of low-income children. This panel includes three papers presenting new findings from randomized-controlled experiments that demonstrated the promise of behaviorally-informed interventions to help low-income children and youth realize their potential.
Two of the papers focus on parental involvement. One explanation for the parent involvement gap is that low-income parents are less involved because they have less information about how to effectively invest. A policy that makes it easier to acquire information should therefore increase investment among affected parents relative to those who were not exposed to the policy. The first paper in this session suggests that small changes in the timing of information or in the way information is presented to parents can increase parental involvement and produce significant and often long-lasting results in children’s academic achievement.
A second explanation for the parent involvement gap is that, despite understanding the importance of investing in children’s human capital, everyday concerns related to parents’ own jobs and careers, household finances and other family responsibilities may distract them from paying more deliberate attention to their children's educational progress. In this scenario, parents have a hard time translating their good intentions into habitual actions. The second paper in this session describes a technology-based intervention that helps parents set goals for the time they will spend reading to their young children, provides objective feedback to parents on their time use, text message reminders about their goals, and social recognition for meeting the goals. The treatment group parents in this experiment spent almost three times as much time reading during the intervention period compared to parents in the control group.
The third paper in this session focuses on the barriers to college-entry for low-income students. The many transition points from high school to college require deliberate attention around short and long-term trade-offs. Prospective students must decide where to go, how long to go, how to afford to go, and then actually apply. While many underprivileged students express intent to attend college, they sometimes fail to complete application requirements. This paper reports results from a large school-based experiment in which application assistance is incorporated into the high school curriculum for all graduating seniors at low-transition schools. The program increased application rates by 15 percentage points, on average, and college going rates by 5 percentage points.