Subjective Parental Beliefs: Their Measurement and Role

64 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2019 Last revised: 15 Jun 2023

See all articles by Orazio Attanasio

Orazio Attanasio

Dept of Economics Yale University; Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS); University College London - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Flavio Cunha

Rice University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Pamela Jervis

University College London

Date Written: November 2019

Abstract

We study the importance of maternal subjective beliefs about the technology of skill formation in determining parental investments in child development. We describe our framework in three steps. First, we discuss the construction of the survey instrument we used to elicit maternal subjective beliefs. Second, we show how to convert the answers to the survey instrument into estimates of maternal subjective beliefs. Finally, we correlate maternal subjective beliefs with maternal investments in child development. We apply our framework to a unique dataset collected as part of an 18-month-long parenting stimulation program in Colombia, whose target population was low-income households with children aged 12 to 24 months at baseline and lasted 18 months. In this program, home visitors paid weekly visits to randomly chosen households to improve mother-child interactions and other maternal behaviors that foster the development of children’s cognitive and non-cognitive skills. We show that most mothers believe that the technology of skill formation follows a Cobb- Douglas parameterization, but there is significant heterogeneity in coefficients of investments across mothers. In addition, mothers hold low subjective expectations, meaning they underestimate the returns on their investments. We also find that maternal subjective beliefs predict investments but that the program did not affect maternal subjective beliefs.

Suggested Citation

Attanasio, Orazio and Cunha, Flavio and Jervis, Pamela, Subjective Parental Beliefs: Their Measurement and Role (November 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w26516, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3496491

Orazio Attanasio (Contact Author)

Dept of Economics Yale University ( email )

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Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)

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University College London - Department of Economics ( email )

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Flavio Cunha

Rice University ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Pamela Jervis

University College London ( email )

Gower Street
London, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom

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