The Importance of a Helping Hand in Education and in Life
This paper discusses the importance of incorporating personal assistance into interventions aimed at improving long-term education and labor market success. While existing research demonstrates the cost-effectiveness of low-touch behavioral nudges, this paper argues that the dynamic nature of human capital accumulation requires sustained habits over time. To foster better habits, social connections are critical for encouraging enduring effort and intrinsic motivation. The paper showcases examples from various stages of human capital accumulation, including early childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, in which interventions that incorporate personal assistance substantially out-perform less intensive nudges. We underscore the importance of interactive support, guidance, and motivation in facilitating significant progress and explore the challenges associated with implementing cost-effective policies to provide such assistance.
This paper came about in part from a presentation for the David and Cecilia Ting BMO lecture series at Simon Fraser University. We received very helpful feedback from participants at the CIRANO workshop on Behavioral and Experimental Economics for Innovative Policy Making in memory of Claude Montmarquette. We also thank Marigen Narea, Gonzalo Gallardo and Maria Paz Monge for their helpful feedback, and funding from FONDECYT Regular, grant number 1220044. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.