Working Papers

Socioeconomic Status Shapes Parental Beliefs about Child Academic Achievement: Evidence from India, the USA, Kenya, and Ghana

Abstract: Parental beliefs about child academic achievement guide educational investment decisions and shape eventual outcomes. Less well known is whether such beliefs differ by socioeconomic status, or whether socioeconomic status causally shapes beliefs. To make progress on these questions, this study combines datasets from India, the USA, Kenya, and Ghana, each featuring three core elements: (i) parental beliefs about child academic achievement, (ii) measures of actual child performance, and (iii) measures of socioeconomic status. A core finding of the study documents that socioeconomically advantaged parents are more likely to believe their child is above average, while socioeconomically disadvantaged parents are more likely to believe their child is below average, a pattern common across countries. Critically, this pattern persists after accounting for performance, revealing that disparities in beliefs outpace any disparities in performance along socioeconomic lines. Further, evidence from India and Kenya suggests these empirical patterns reflect what is partly a causal relationship, where socioeconomic circumstances fundamentally shape parental beliefs. Beliefs respond negatively to adverse rainfall shocks (that reduce farm income) in India, and positively to a randomized intervention (that improves economic circumstances) in Kenya. Finally, this study documents disparities in math- and reading-specific beliefs by child gender in the USA. Disparities in parental beliefs along socioeconomic lines could contribute to perpetuating inequalities, if such beliefs contribute to disparities in investments.

Other: Ideas for India article, World Bank Development Impact Blog Post

Intergenerational Human Capital Impacts and Complementarities in Kenya (with Lia Fernald, Joan Hamory, Patricia Kariger, Edward Miguel, Eric Ochieng, and Michael Walker)

Abstract: This study exploits experimental variation in parent human capital (through earlier school-based deworming) with a shock to schooling (through extended Covid closures) to estimate how they interact in the production of child human capital. Parents with additional exposure to deworming in childhood have children (a sample of 3,500 of 3-8 year olds) with improved human capital, including gains to health and non-cognitive behavior, as well as average cognitive gains of +0.26 standard deviations units among school-age children during the pre-Covid period. The findings are consistent with parent human capital and school-based investments being complements in the production of child cognition.

Preparing for an Aging Africa: Data-Driven Priorities for Economic Research and Policy (with Edward Miguel, Amos Njuguna, Daniela Pinto Veizaga, and Michael Walker)

Revise and Resubmit, Journal of Political Economy Microeconomics

Abstract: The over-60 population in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to grow rapidly in the coming decades, tripling between 2020 and 2050. Despite this explosive projected growth, few countries in the region have implemented policies designed to support older populations. Further, little research in economics has specifically examined aging in Sub-Saharan Africa, though many opportunities exist for economists to generate research evidence to inform the design of effective policies in this area. This paper combines insights from a cross-disciplinary review with original data analysis to characterize the challenges and opportunities facing older Sub-Saharan Africans in domains such as health and financial security. Informed by these findings, the paper identifies directions for future economic research and discusses how research evidence can inform the design of health care systems, pensions, and other public support programs to prepare for an aging Africa.

Other Works in Progress

Income Shocks and Female Labor Supply in India (with Emily Breza, Supreet Kaur, and Yogita Shamdasani)

Parent Well-being, Home Learning Environment, and Child Development among Families in Kenya (with Amber Beisly, Kyung Ah Kwon, Edward Miguel, Ye Rang Park, and Michael Walker)