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Parental Beliefs, Perceived Health Risks, and Time Investment in Children: Evidence from COVID-19




When deciding how to allocate their time among different types of investment in their children, parents weigh up the perceived benefits and costs of different activities. During the COVID-19 outbreak parents had to consider a new cost dimension when making this decision: the perceived health risks associated with contracting the virus. What role did parental beliefs about risks and returns play for the allocation of time with children during the pandemic? We answer this question by collecting rich data on a sample of first-time parents in England during the first lockdown, including elicitation of perceived risks and returns to different activities via hypothetical scenarios. We find that parents perceive their own time investment to be (i) more productive and (ii) less risky than the time spent by their children in formal childcare or with peers. Using open-ended questions about their pandemic experience and detailed time use data on children’s daily activities, we then show that parental beliefs are predictive of actual investment choices, and are correlated with parental feelings derived from sentiment analysis. Lastly, we show that less educated parents perceive both lower returns and lower risks from investments, potentially causing a further widening of pre-existing inequalities in early years development, and suggesting the need for targeted informational interventions.

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  • Gabriella Conti & Michele Giannola & Alessandro Toppeta, 2022. "Parental Beliefs, Perceived Health Risks, and Time Investment in Children: Evidence from COVID-19," CSEF Working Papers 658, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
  • Handle: RePEc:sef:csefwp:658

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Daniela Del Boca & Christopher Flinn & Matthew Wiswall, 2014. "Household Choices and Child Development," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 81(1), pages 137-185.
    2. Agostinelli, Francesco & Doepke, Matthias & Sorrenti, Giuseppe & Zilibotti, Fabrizio, 2022. "When the great equalizer shuts down: Schools, peers, and parents in pandemic times," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 206(C).
    3. Musaddiq, Tareena & Stange, Kevin & Bacher-Hicks, Andrew & Goodman, Joshua, 2022. "The Pandemic’s effect on demand for public schools, homeschooling, and private schools," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 212(C).
    4. Beatrice Ferrario & Stefanie Stantcheva, 2022. "Eliciting People's First-Order Concerns: Text Analysis of Open-Ended Survey Questions," AEA Papers and Proceedings, American Economic Association, vol. 112, pages 163-169, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michele Giannola, 2022. "Parental investments and intra-household inequality in child human capital: evidence from a survey experiment," IFS Working Papers W22/54, Institute for Fiscal Studies.

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    More about this item


    parental beliefs; health risks; time investments; childcare; text data; coronavirus;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I26 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Returns to Education
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth


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