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The role of parental investments for cognitive and noncognitive skill formation—Evidence for the first 11 years of life

  • Coneus, Katja
  • Laucht, Manfred
  • Reuß, Karsten

This paper examines the impact of parental investments on the development of cognitive, mental and emotional skills during childhood using data from a longitudinal study, the Mannheim Study of Children at Risk, starting at birth. Our work offers three important innovations. First, we use reliable measures of the child's cognitive, mental and emotional skills as well as accurate measures of parental investments. The observed investments include parental health behaviour, playing and talking with the child, play materials, leisure activities and others. Second, we estimate latent factor models to account for unobserved characteristics of children. Third, we examine the skill development for girls and boys separately, as well as for children who were born with either organic or psychosocial risk. We find a decreasing impact of parental investments on cognitive and mental skills over time, while emotional skills seem to be unaffected by parental investments in childhood. Thus, inequality at birth persists during childhood. Since families are the main sources of education during the first years of life, our results have important implications for the quality of the parent–child relationship. Improving maternal health during pregnancy and parental investments in infancy can yield large benefits for cognitive and mental development later in childhood.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Economics & Human Biology.

Volume (Year): 10 (2012)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 189-209

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Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:10:y:2012:i:2:p:189-209
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  1. Husain, Muna & Millimet, Daniel L., 2009. "The mythical 'boy crisis'?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 38-48, February.
  2. Flavio Cunha & James Heckman & Susanne Schennach, 2010. "Estimating the technology of cognitive and noncognitive skill formation," CeMMAP working papers CWP09/10, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  3. Blomeyer, Dorothea & Coneus, Katja & Laucht, Manfred & Pfeiffer, Friedhelm, 2008. "Self-Productivity and Complementarities in Human Development: Evidence from the Mannheim Study of Children at Risk," IZA Discussion Papers 3734, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Sandra E. Black & Paul Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2007. "From the Cradle to the Labor Market? The Effect of Birth Weight on Adult Outcomes," Working Papers 200718, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
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  9. Cunha, Flavio & Heckman, James J. & Lochner, Lance John & Masterov, Dimitriy V., 2005. "Interpreting the Evidence on Life Cycle Skill Formation," IZA Discussion Papers 1675, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. Dorothea Blomeyer & Katja Coneus & Manfred Laucht & Friedhelm Pfeiffer, 2009. "Initial Risk Matrix, Home Resources, Ability Development, and Children's Achievement," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(2-3), pages 638-648, 04-05.
  11. Douglas Almond & Lena Edlund & Mårten Palme, 2009. "Chernobyl's Subclinical Legacy: Prenatal Exposure to Radioactive Fallout and School Outcomes in Sweden," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1729-1772.
  12. James Heckman & Flavio Cunha, 2007. "The Technology of Skill Formation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(2), pages 31-47, May.
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  14. Phil Oreopoulos & Mark Stabile & Randy Walld & Leslie Roos, 2006. "Short, Medium, and Long Term Consequences of Poor Infant Health: An Analysis using Siblings and Twins," NBER Working Papers 11998, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Doyle, Orla & Harmon, Colm P. & Heckman, James J. & Tremblay, Richard E., 2009. "Investing in early human development: Timing and economic efficiency," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 1-6, March.
  16. Flavio Cunha & James J. Heckman, 2009. "The Economics & Psychology of Inequality and Human Development," Working Papers 200905, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
  17. Paul J. Devereux & Sandra E. Black & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2007. "From the cradle to the labor market? The effect of birth weight on adult outcomes," Working Papers 10197/317, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
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