Panel: Using Field Experiments to Examine Parent and Provider Decisions in the ECE Market
(Family and Child Policy)

Friday, November 9, 2018: 3:15 PM-4:45 PM
Wilson B - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Chairs:  Chris M. Herbst, Arizona State University
Discussants:  Susanna Loeb, Stanford University and Chris Doss, Stanford University

The Demand for Teacher Characteristics in the Market for Child Care: Evidence from a Field Experiment
Casey H. Boyd-Swan, Kent State University and Chris M. Herbst, Arizona State University

Experimental Evidence on the Demand for Child Care Quality
Erdal Tekin1, Chris M. Herbst2 and James Gordon1, (1)American University, (2)Arizona State University

Can Friendly Text Messages Help Parents Navigate a Complex Application Process for Early Education Programs? Experimental Evidence from New Orleans
Lindsay Bell Weixler1, Daphna Bassok2, Jon Valant3, Justin Brian Doromal2 and Alica Gerry1, (1)Tulane University, (2)University of Virginia, (3)Brookings Institution

The motivation for this panel is rooted in a paradox: despite the importance of high-quality early care and education (ECE) for children’s development, many children attend programs that are of low- or mediocre-quality. This session brings together four papers that use field experiments to examine parent- and provider-side hypotheses about why quality may be low, as well as scalable interventions aimed at “nudging” families toward selecting a high-quality program. The common theme running through the papers is that ECE market actors—parents and providers—may make decisions in ways that preclude the market from generating the socially optimal level of quality, and that well-timed information nudges may improve decision-making, and thus quality.

One constraint on the consumer-side is the presence of information asymmetries in which parents do not have sufficient information to distinguish between low- and high-quality programs. For example, although most parents claim to value high-quality, education-focused ECE, the evidence suggests that actual decisions are driven by such practical considerations as costs, location, and hours-of-operation. Still another constraint is logistical: the application process for public programs may include multiple steps—search, apply, verify eligibility, and enroll—that requires meeting several deadlines. Failing to comply with these steps may translate into the child’s inability to enroll in the program of choice.

On the provider-side, operators may face limitations on the ability to simultaneously offer high-quality programs and earn sufficient revenue to stay in business. Thus, although hiring high-skilled teachers may generate developmental benefits for children, doing so will increase program operating costs and, in turn, the price of care. Providers may therefore face constraints on producing the socially optimal level of quality. Thus it is important to understand the ways in which ECE providers negotiate the trade-offs between program costs and quality when making teacher hiring decisions.

To study these issues, this panel includes four papers. The first paper examines parents’ decision-making when selecting child care. The authors conduct an RCT, drawing on an online bank of child care jobs to randomly assign caregiver characteristics—including work experience, educational attainment, and the expected wage rate—to profiles that are shown to parents searching for a provider. The second study uses a resume audit study to examine teacher hiring practices in the center-based market. The authors experimentally vary job-seeker characteristics on resumes submitted in response to real teacher job postings in 14 U.S. cities. The third and fourth papers are among the first in the ECE space to test whether “light touch” behavioral interventions are effective at assisting parents with enrolling their child in a high-quality program. One study, using New Orleans as the laboratory, partnered with EnrollNOLA to examine the impact of personalized text messages on the propensity of parents to verify their eligibility for pre-k/Head Start. The other study, of Indiana families on the waitlist for child care subsidies, examines the impact of an informational referral list (containing nearby high-quality programs) and a personalized follow-up phone call on the selection of a program.  N/A

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