Too Little or Too Much? Actionable Advice in an Early-Childhood Text Messaging Experiment

46 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2018 Last revised: 18 Aug 2018

See all articles by Kalena E. Cortes

Kalena E. Cortes

Texas A&M University - George Bush School of Government and Public Service; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Hans Fricke

University of St. Gallen - Swiss Institute for Empirical Economic Research; Stanford University

Susanna Loeb

Stanford University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

David S. Song

Stanford University - School of Education

Abstract

Text-message based parenting programs have proven successful in improving parental engagement and preschoolers' literacy development. The tested programs have provided a combination of (a) general information about important literacy skills, (b) actionable advice (i.e., specific examples of such activities), and (c) encouragement. The regularity of the texts – each week throughout the school year – also provided nudges to focus parents' attention on their children. This study seeks to identify mechanisms of the overall effect of such programs. It investigates whether the actionable advice alone drives previous study's results and whether additional texts of actionable advice improve program effectiveness.The findings provide evidence that text messaging programs can supply too little or too much information. A single text per week is not as effective at improving parenting practices as a set of three texts that also include information and encouragement, but a set of five texts with additional actionable advice is also not as effective as the three-text approach. The results on children's literacy development depend strongly on the child's pre-intervention literacy skills. For children in the lowest quarter of the pretreatment literacy assessments, only providing one example of an activity decreases literacy scores by 0.15 standard deviations relative to the original intervention. Literacy scores of children in higher quarters are marginally higher with only one tip per week. We find no positive effects of increasing to five texts per week.

Keywords: text messaging, parental engagement, literacy and reading skills, and parent-child activities

JEL Classification: I21, I24, J18

Suggested Citation

Cortes, Kalena E. and Fricke, Hans and Loeb, Susanna and Song, David S., Too Little or Too Much? Actionable Advice in an Early-Childhood Text Messaging Experiment. IZA Discussion Paper No. 11669, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3217485

Kalena E. Cortes (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University - George Bush School of Government and Public Service ( email )

TAMU 4220
1004 George Bush Dr West
College Station, TX 77843
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Hans Fricke

University of St. Gallen - Swiss Institute for Empirical Economic Research ( email )

Varnbüelstr. 14
St.Gallen, CH-9000
Switzerland

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Susanna Loeb

Stanford University ( email )

School of Education 402P CERAS, 520 Galvez Mall
Stanford, CA 94305
United States
650-725-4262 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

David S. Song

Stanford University - School of Education ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-3096
United States

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