Parents' Beliefs About Their Children's Academic Ability: Implications for Educational Investments
Information about children’s school performance appears to be readily available. Do frictions prevent parents, particularly low-income parents, from acting on this information when making decisions? I conduct a field experiment in Malawi to test this. I find that parents’ baseline beliefs about their children’s academic performance are inaccurate. Providing parents with clear and digestible academic performance information causes them to update their beliefs and correspondingly adjust their investments: they increase the school enrollment of their higher-performing children, decrease the enrollment of their lower-performing children, and choose educational inputs that are more closely matched to their children’s academic level. These effects demonstrate the presence of important frictions preventing the use of available information, with heterogeneity analysis suggesting the frictions are worse among the poor.
I am very grateful to Pascaline Dupas, Caroline Hoxby, and Seema Jayachandran for their guidance, and to Ran Abramitzky, Abhijit Banerjee, Jim Berry, Marianne Bertrand, Nick Bloom, Doug Bernheim, Eric Budish, Manasi Deshpande, Celine Dizon, Elise Dizon-Ross, Natalie Douvos, Esther Duflo, Alex Eble, Liran Einav, Nick Hagerty, Rema Hanna, Johannes Haushofer, Yael Hochberg, Anil Jain, Asim Khwaja, Anjini Kochar, Dan Lee, Shirlee Lichtman, Matthew Lowe, Rachael Meager, Ben Olken, Arianna Ornaghi, Jonah Rockoff, Sheldon Ross, Ashish Shenoy, Fabiana Silva, Melanie Wasserman, Tom Wollmann, Jenny Ying, Owen Zidar and workshop participants at Stanford, MIT, and Harvard, and seminar participants at Princeton, Yale, Columbia, University of Chicago, Chicago Booth, Northwestern, Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, UCLA, UCSD, Stanford, Columbia Teacher’s College, Duke, NBER Development Fall 2014, NBER Education Spring 2014, PacDEV 2014, and NEUDC 2013 for helpful comments and discussions. I thank Bridget Hoffmann, Rachel Levenson, and Michael Roscitt for help with the fieldwork, and Christine Cai and Yashna Nandan for excellent research assistance. I appreciate the generous support of the Endowment in Memory of B.F. Haley and E.S. Shaw, Innovations for Poverty Action, the National Science Foundation (DDRIG 1156155), the Russell Sage Foundation, the Shultz Graduate Student Fellowship, SIEPR, the Stanford Economics Department, and the DDRO and GRO Funds. This study is registered in the AEA RCT Registry and the unique identifying number is: AEARCTR-0001808. All errors are my own. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Rebecca Dizon-Ross, 2019. "Parents’ Beliefs about Their Children’s Academic Ability: Implications for Educational Investments," American Economic Review, vol 109(8), pages 2728-2765.