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Using Behavioral Insights to Increase Parental Engagement: The Parents and Children Together (PACT) Intervention

Susan E. Mayer, Ariel Kalil, Philip Oreopoulos, Sebastian Gallegos

NBER Working Paper No. 21602
Issued in October 2015
NBER Program(s):Children, Economics of Education, Labor Studies

Parent engagement with their children plays an important role in children’s eventual economic success and numerous studies have documented large gaps in parent engagement between low- and higher-income families. While we know remarkably little about what motivates parents to engage in their children’s development, recent research suggests that ignoring or discounting the future may inhibit parental investment, while certain behavioral tools may help offset this tendency. This paper reports results from a randomized field experiment designed to increase the time that parents of children in subsidized preschool programs spend reading to their children using an electronic reading application that audio and video records parents as they read. The treatment included three behavioral tools (text reminders, goal-setting, and social rewards) as well as information about the importance of reading to children. The treatment increased usage of the reading application by one standard deviation after the six-week intervention. Our evidence suggests that the large effect size is not accounted for by the information component of the intervention and that the treatment impact was much greater for parents who are more present-oriented than for parents who are less present-oriented.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21602

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