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The Effect of Family Background on Student Effort

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  • Kuehn, Zoe
  • Landeras, Pedro

Abstract

While students from more advantageous family backgrounds tend to perform better, it is not clear that they exert more effort compared to those from less advantageous family backgrounds. We build a model of students, schools, and employers to study the interaction of family background and effort exerted by the student in the education process. Academic qualifications, which entail an income premium in the labor market, are noisily determined by effort and the student's ability to benefit from education, which in turn depends on her family background and innate talent. In a situation where schools set the optimal passing standard, two factors turn out to be key in determining the relationship between effort and family background: (i) the student's risk aversion and (ii) the degree with which family background alters the student's marginal productivity of effort. We show that when the degree of risk aversion is relatively low (high) compared to the sensitivity of the marginal productivity of the student's effort with respect to her family background, the relation between effort and family background is positive (negative) and students from more advantageous family backgrounds exert more (less) effort. Considering Spanish data and controlling for school fixed effects, we find that an improvement in parental education from not having completed compulsory education to holding a university degree is associated to around 15% more effort by the student(approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes of additional weekly homework). We also find empirical evidence consistent with our assumption that students' marginal productivity of effort varies with family background.

Suggested Citation

  • Kuehn, Zoe & Landeras, Pedro, 2012. "The Effect of Family Background on Student Effort," MPRA Paper 40531, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:40531
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. De Fraja, Gianni & Landeras, Pedro, 2006. "Could do better: The effectiveness of incentives and competition in schools," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(1-2), pages 189-213, January.
    2. Jo Blanden, 2004. "Family Income and Educational Attainment: A Review of Approaches and Evidence for Britain," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(2), pages 245-263, Summer.
    3. Stinebrickner Ralph & Stinebrickner Todd R., 2008. "The Causal Effect of Studying on Academic Performance," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 8(1), pages 1-55, June.
    4. Belzil, Christian & Leonardi, Marco, 2007. "Can risk aversion explain schooling attainments? Evidence from Italy," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(6), pages 957-970, December.
    5. Gianni de Fraja, 2002. "The Design of Optimal Education Policies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(2), pages 437-466.
    6. Eren, Ozkan & Henderson, Daniel J., 2011. "Are we wasting our children's time by giving them more homework?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 950-961, October.
    7. Groves, Melissa Osborne, 2005. "How important is your personality? Labor market returns to personality for women in the US and UK," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 26(6), pages 827-841, December.
    8. Christian Belzil & Jörgen Hansen, 2002. "Earnings Dispersion, Risk Aversion and Education," CIRANO Working Papers 2002s-20, CIRANO.
    9. Galindo-Rueda, Fernando & Vignoles, Anna, 2002. "Class Ridden or Meritocratic? An Economic Analysis of Recent Changes in Britain," IZA Discussion Papers 677, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Brindusa Anghel & Antonio Cabrales, 2010. "The Determinants of Success in Primary Education in Spain," Working Papers 2010-20, FEDEA.
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    14. Pedro Landeras, 2009. "Student effort: standards vs. tournaments," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(9), pages 965-969.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kuehn, Zoe & Landeras, Pedro, 2012. "Study Time and Scholarly Achievement in PISA," Working Papers 2012-02, FEDEA.
    2. Michaelis, Jochen & Schwanebeck, Benjamin, 2016. "Examination rules and student effort," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 65-68.
    3. Cantillon, B. & De Ridder, A. & Vanhaecht, E. & Verbist, G., 2011. "(Un)desirable effects of output funding for Flemish universities," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 1059-1072, October.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    student effort; family background; risk aversion; educational standards;

    JEL classification:

    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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