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The Social Side of Early Human Capital Formation: Using a Field Experiment to Estimate the Causal Impact of Neighborhoods

Author

Listed:
  • John A. List

    (University of Chicago - Department of Economics; NBER)

  • Fatemeh Momeni

    (University of Chicago - Crime and Education Labs)

  • Yves Zenou

    (Monash University - Department of Economics)

Abstract

The behavioral revolution within economics has been largely driven by psychological insights, with the sister sciences playing a lesser role. This study leverages insights from sociology to explore the role of neighborhoods on human capital formation at an early age. We do so by estimating the spillover effects from a large-scale early childhood intervention on the educational attainment of over 2,000 disadvantaged children in the United States. We document large spillover effects on both treatment and control children who live near treated children. Interestingly, the spillover effects are localized, decreasing with the spatial distance to treated neighbors. Perhaps our most novel insight is the underlying mechanisms at work: the spillover effect on non-cognitive scores operate through the child's social network while parental investment is an important channel through which cognitive spillover effects operate. Overall, our results reveal the importance of public programs and neighborhoods on human capital formation at an early age, highlighting that human capital accumulation is fundamentally a social activity.

Suggested Citation

  • John A. List & Fatemeh Momeni & Yves Zenou, 2020. "The Social Side of Early Human Capital Formation: Using a Field Experiment to Estimate the Causal Impact of Neighborhoods," Working Papers 2020-187, Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bfi:wpaper:2020-187
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    Cited by:

    1. Agostinelli, Francesco & Avitabile, Ciro & Bobba, Matteo, 2021. "Enhancing Human Capital in Children: A Case Study on Scaling," TSE Working Papers 21-1196, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE), revised Aug 2022.
    2. John A. List & Ragan Petrie & Anya Samek, 2021. "How Experiments with Children Inform Economics," NBER Working Papers 28825, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Boucher, Vincent & Del Bello, Carlo & Panebianco, Fabrizio & Verdier, Thierry & Zenou, Yves, 2020. "Education Transmission and Network Formation," CEPR Discussion Papers 14997, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Cristina Bratu & Matz Dahlberg & Madhinee Valeyatheepillay, 2021. "Age at Arrival and Residential Integration," CESifo Working Paper Series 9181, CESifo.
    5. Boucher, Vincent & Tumen, Semih & Vlassopoulos, Michael & Wahba, Jackline & Zenou, Yves, 2021. "Ethnic Mixing in Early Childhood: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment and a Structural Model," IZA Discussion Papers 14260, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • I26 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Returns to Education
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • R1 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics

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