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Too Little or Too Much? Actionable Advice in an Early-Childhood Text Messaging Experiment

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  • Cortes, Kalena E.

    () (Texas A&M University)

  • Fricke, Hans

    () (Stanford University)

  • Loeb, Susanna

    () (Stanford University)

  • Song, David S.

    () (Stanford University)

Abstract

Text-message based parenting programs have proven successful in improving parental engagement and preschoolers' literacy development. The tested programs have provided a combination of (a) general information about important literacy skills, (b) actionable advice (i.e., specific examples of such activities), and (c) encouragement. The regularity of the texts – each week throughout the school year – also provided nudges to focus parents' attention on their children. This study seeks to identify mechanisms of the overall effect of such programs. It investigates whether the actionable advice alone drives previous study's results and whether additional texts of actionable advice improve program effectiveness. The findings provide evidence that text messaging programs can supply too little or too much information. A single text per week is not as effective at improving parenting practices as a set of three texts that also include information and encouragement, but a set of five texts with additional actionable advice is also not as effective as the three-text approach. The results on children's literacy development depend strongly on the child's pre-intervention literacy skills. For children in the lowest quarter of the pretreatment literacy assessments, only providing one example of an activity decreases literacy scores by 0.15 standard deviations relative to the original intervention. Literacy scores of children in higher quarters are marginally higher with only one tip per week. We find no positive effects of increasing to five texts per week.

Suggested Citation

  • Cortes, Kalena E. & Fricke, Hans & Loeb, Susanna & Song, David S., 2018. "Too Little or Too Much? Actionable Advice in an Early-Childhood Text Messaging Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 11669, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp11669
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Dean Karlan & Margaret McConnell & Sendhil Mullainathan & Jonathan Zinman, 2016. "Getting to the Top of Mind: How Reminders Increase Saving," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 62(12), pages 3393-3411, December.
    2. Castleman, Benjamin L. & Page, Lindsay C., 2015. "Summer nudging: Can personalized text messages and peer mentor outreach increase college going among low-income high school graduates?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 144-160.
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    4. Kraft, Matthew A. & Rogers, Todd, 2015. "The underutilized potential of teacher-to-parent communication: Evidence from a field experiment," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 49-63.
    5. Kraft, Matthew A. & Rogers, Todd, 2015. "The Underutilized Potential of Teacher-to-Parent Communication: Evidence from a Field Experiment," Working Paper Series rwp14-049, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    6. Justine S. Hastings & Jeffrey M. Weinstein, 2008. "Information, School Choice, and Academic Achievement: Evidence from Two Experiments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(4), pages 1373-1414.
    7. repec:eee:ecoedu:v:64:y:2018:i:c:p:199-213 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Head, Katharine J. & Noar, Seth M. & Iannarino, Nicholas T. & Grant Harrington, Nancy, 2013. "Efficacy of text messaging-based interventions for health promotion: A meta-analysis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 41-48.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    text messaging; parental engagement; literacy and reading skills; and parent-child activities;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy

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