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Human Capital Investment by the Poor: Informing Policy with Laboratory and Field Experiments

  • Catherine Eckel
  • Cathleen Johnson
  • Claude Montmarquette

The purpose of the study is to collect information that can be used to design a policy to induce the poor to invest in human capital. We use laboratory experimental methodology to measure the preferences and choices of the target population of a proposed government policy. We recruited 256 subjects in Montreal, Canada; 72 percent had income below 120 percent of the Canadian poverty level. The combination of survey measures and actual decisions allows us to better understand individual heterogeneity in responses to different subsidy levels. Two behavioral characteristics, patience and attitude towards risk, are key to understanding the determinants of educational investment for the low-income individuals in this experiment. The decision to save for a family member's education is somewhat different from that of investing in one's own education. Again, patient participants were more likely to save for a family member's education, but in contrast to investing in one's own education, a subject's attitude towards risk played no role. Le but de cette étude est de recueillir des informations pour concevoir une politique publique afin d'inciter les pauvres à investir en capital humain. Nous utilisons l'approche expérimentale pour mesurer les préférences et les choix de la population ciblée. Nous avons recruté 256 sujets à Montréal. 72 % avaient un revenu inférieur à 120 % pour cent du seuil de faible revenu de Statistique Canada. La combinaison de mesures d'enquête et les décisions réelles nous permettent de mieux comprendre l'hétérogénéité individuelle dans les réponses aux différents niveaux de subvention. Deux caractéristiques comportementales, la patience (désir d'épargne) et l'attitude envers le risque, sont essentielles à la compréhension des déterminants de l'investissement éducatif pour les personnes à faible revenu dans cette expérience. La décision d'investir dans l'éducation d'un membre de la famille est quelque peu différente de celle d'investir dans sa propre éducation. Encore une fois, les participants les plus patients sont les plus susceptibles d'épargner pour l'éducation d'un membre de la famille, mais au contraire, investir dans sa propre éducation, l'attitude d'un sujet vis-à-vis le risque ne joue aucun rôle.

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Paper provided by CIRANO in its series CIRANO Working Papers with number 2010s-33.

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Length: 56 pages
Date of creation: 01 Aug 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:2010s-33
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