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Eliciting Maternal Expectations about the Technology of Cognitive Skill Formation

Author

Listed:
  • Flávio Cunha
  • Irma Elo
  • Jennifer Culhane

Abstract

In this paper, we formulate a model of early childhood development in which mothers have subjective expectations about the technology of skill formation. The model is useful for understanding how maternal knowledge about child development affects the maternal choices of investments in the human capital of children. Unfortunately, the model is not identified from data that are usually available to econometricians. To solve this problem, we conduct a study where mothers were interviewed to elicit maternal expectations about the technology of skill formation. We interviewed a sample of socioeconomically disadvantaged African‐American women. We find that the median subjective expectation about the elasticity of child development with respect to investments is between 4% and 19%. In comparison, when we estimate the technology of skill formation from the CNLSY/79 data, we find that the elasticity is between 18% and 26%. We use the model and our unique data to answer a simple but important question: What would happen to investments and child development if we implemented a policy that moved expectations from the median to the objective estimates that we obtain from the CNLSY/79 data? According to our estimates, maternal investments would go up by between 4% and 24% and the stocks of cognitive skills at age 24 months would subsequently increase between 1% and 5%. Needless to say, the impacts of such a policy would be even higher for mothers whose expectations were below the median.

Suggested Citation

  • Flávio Cunha & Irma Elo & Jennifer Culhane, 2013. "Eliciting Maternal Expectations about the Technology of Cognitive Skill Formation," NBER Working Papers 19144, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19144
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Adeline Delavande, 2008. "Pill, Patch, Or Shot? Subjective Expectations And Birth Control Choice," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 49(3), pages 999-1042, August.
    2. J. Dominitz & C. F. Manski, "undated". "Perceptions of Economic Insecurity: Evidence from the Survey of Economic Expectations," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1105-96, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
    3. Katja Kaufmann & Luigi Pistaferri, 2009. "Disentangling Insurance and Information in Intertemporal Consumption Choices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 387-392, May.
    4. Rodney L. Jacobs & Robert A. Jones, 1978. "Price Expectations in the United States: 1947-1973," UCLA Economics Working Papers 107, UCLA Department of Economics.
    5. J. Dominitz & C. F. Manski, "undated". "Using expectations data to study subjective income expectations," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1050-94, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
    6. James Heckman & Seong Hyeok Moon & Rodrigo Pinto & Peter Savelyev & Adam Yavitz, 2010. "Analyzing social experiments as implemented: A reexamination of the evidence from the HighScope Perry Preschool Program," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 1(1), pages 1-46, July.
    7. Adeline Delavande & Xavier Giné & David McKenzie, 2011. "Eliciting probabilistic expectations with visual aids in developing countries: how sensitive are answers to variations in elicitation design?," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(3), pages 479-497, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Francesconi, Marco & Heckman, James J., 2016. "Symposium on Child Development and Parental Investment: Introduction," IZA Discussion Papers 9977, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Bhalotra, Sonia & Karlsson, Martin & Nilsson, Therese, 2014. "Life Expectancy and Mother-Baby Interventions. Evidence from A Historical Trial," Ruhr Economic Papers 504, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
    3. Elizabeth M. Caucutt & Lance Lochner & Youngmin Park, 2017. "Correlation, Consumption, Confusion, or Constraints: Why Do Poor Children Perform so Poorly?," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 119(1), pages 102-147, January.
    4. Francesconi, Marco & Heckman, James J, 2015. "Symposium on Child Development and Parental Investment: Introduction," Economics Discussion Papers 16868, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
    5. Warn N. Lekfuangfu & Nattavudh Powdthavee & Nele Warrinnier & Francesca Cornaglia, 2018. "Locus of Control and its Intergenerational Implications for Early Childhood Skill Formation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 128(608), pages 298-329, February.
    6. Teodora Boneva & Christopher Rauh, 2015. "Parental Beliefs about Returns to Educational Investments: The Later the Better?," Working Papers 2015-019, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    7. Carneiro, Pedro & Lopez Garcia, Italo & Salvanes, Kjell G. & Tominey, Emma, 2015. "Intergenerational Mobility and the Timing of Parental Income," IZA Discussion Papers 9479, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Orla Doyle, 2017. "The First 2,000 Days and Child Skills: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment of Home Visiting," Working Papers 201715, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    9. Sneha Elango & Jorge Luis García & James J. Heckman & Andrés Hojman, 2015. "Early Childhood Education," NBER Chapters,in: Economics of Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, Volume 2, pages 235-297 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Weerachart Kilenthong & Dinh Thi Ngoc Tu, 2017. "Parental Time and Material Investments in Rural Thailand," PIER Discussion Papers 68, Puey Ungphakorn Institute for Economic Research, revised Sep 2017.
    11. Fitzsimons, Emla & Malde, Bansi & Mesnard, Alice & Vera-Hernández, Marcos, 2016. "Nutrition, information and household behavior: Experimental evidence from Malawi," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 113-126.
    12. Orazio Attanasio & Costas Meghir & Emily Nix, 2015. "Human Capital Development and Parental Investment in India," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 2026R, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised Jul 2017.
    13. repec:ces:ifodic:v:15:y:2017:i:1:p:19307500 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Chris Belfield & Teodora Boneva & Christopher Rauh & Jonathan Shaw, 2016. "Money or fun? Why students want to pursue further education," IFS Working Papers W16/13, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    15. Bhalotra, Sonia & Karlsson, Martin & Nilsson, Therese, 2015. "Infant health and longevity: evidence from a historical trial in Sweden," ISER Working Paper Series 2015-08, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    16. Peter Leopold S. Bergman & Eric W. Chan, 2017. "Leveraging Technology to Engage Parents at Scale: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial," CESifo Working Paper Series 6493, CESifo Group Munich.
    17. Josh Kinsler & Ronni Pavan, 2016. "Parental Beliefs and Investment in Children: The Distortionary Impact of Schools," Working Papers 2016-029, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    18. Peter Leopold S. Bergman, 2015. "Parent-Child Information Frictions and Human Capital Investment: Evidence from a Field Experiment," CESifo Working Paper Series 5391, CESifo Group Munich.
    19. Sebastian Galiani & Matthew Staiger & Gustavo Torrens, 2017. "When Children Rule: Parenting in Modern Families," NBER Working Papers 23087, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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