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The Effect of Family Background on Student Effort

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  • Kuehn, Zoe
  • Landeras, Pedro
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    Abstract

    While students from more advantageous family backgrounds tend to perform better, it is not clear that they exert more effort compared to those from less advantageous family backgrounds. We build a model of students, schools, and employers to study the interaction of family background and effort exerted by the student in the education process. Academic qualifications, which entail an income premium in the labor market, are noisily determined by effort and the student's ability to benefit from education, which in turn depends on her family background and innate talent. In a situation where schools set the optimal passing standard, two factors turn out to be key in determining the relationship between effort and family background: (i) the student's risk aversion and (ii) the degree with which family background alters the student's marginal productivity of effort. We show that when the degree of risk aversion is relatively low (high) compared to the sensitivity of the marginal productivity of the student's effort with respect to her family background, the relation between effort and family background is positive (negative) and students from more advantageous family backgrounds exert more (less) effort. Considering Spanish data and controlling for school fixed effects, we find that an improvement in parental education from not having completed compulsory education to holding a university degree is associated to around 15% more effort by the student(approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes of additional weekly homework). We also find empirical evidence consistent with our assumption that students' marginal productivity of effort varies with family background.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 40531.

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    Date of creation: Aug 2012
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    Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:40531

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    Keywords: student effort; family background; risk aversion; educational standards;

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    1. Stinebrickner Ralph & Stinebrickner Todd R., 2008. "The Causal Effect of Studying on Academic Performance," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, De Gruyter, vol. 8(1), pages 1-55, June.
    2. Christian Belzil & Marco Leonardi, 2006. "Can Risk Aversion Explain Schooling Attainments? Evidence From Italy," Working Papers, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique (GATE), Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Université Lyon 2, Ecole Normale Supérieure 0607, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique (GATE), Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Université Lyon 2, Ecole Normale Supérieure.
    3. Belzil, Christian & Hansen, Jörgen, 2002. "Earnings Dispersion, Risk Aversion and Education," IZA Discussion Papers 513, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Jo Blanden & Paul Gregg, 2004. "Family Income and Educational Attainment: A Review of Approaches and Evidence for Britain," CEE Discussion Papers, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE 0041, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
    5. Galindo-Rueda, Fernando & Vignoles, Anna, 2002. "Class Ridden or Meritocratic? An Economic Analysis of Recent Changes in Britain," IZA Discussion Papers 677, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Brindusa Anghel & Antonio Cabrales, 2010. "The Determinants of Success in Primary Education in Spain," Working Papers 2010-20, FEDEA.
    7. De Fraja, Gianni & Oliveira, Tania & Zanchi, Luisa, 2005. "Must Try Harder. Evaluating the Role of Effort in Educational Attainment," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 5048, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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