Parenting Promotes Social Mobility within and Across Generations

64 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2022 Last revised: 30 Oct 2022

See all articles by Jorge Luis García

Jorge Luis García

Clemson University - John E. Walker Department of Economics; University of Southern California - Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics

James J. Heckman

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); American Bar Foundation; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

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Date Written: October 26, 2022

Abstract

This paper compares early childhood enrichment programs that promote social mobility for disadvantaged children within and across generations. Instead of conducting a standard meta-analysis, we present a harmonized primary data analysis of programs that shape current policy. Our analysis is a template for rigorous syntheses and comparisons across programs. We analyze new long-run life-cycle data collected for iconic programs when participants are middle-aged and their children are in their twenties. The iconic programs are omnibus in nature and offer many services to children and their parents. We compare them with relatively low-cost more focused home-visiting programs. Successful interventions target both children and their caregivers. They engage caregivers and improve the home lives of children. They permanently boost cognitive and noncognitive skills. Participants in programs that enrich home environments grow up with better skills, jobs, earnings, marital stability, and health, as well as reduced participation in crime. Long-run monetized gains are substantially greater than program costs for iconic programs. We investigate the mechanisms promoting successful family lives for participants and find intergenerational effects on their children. A study of focused home-visiting programs that target parents enables us to isolate a crucial component of successful programs: they activate and promote parenting skills of child caregivers. The home-visiting programs we analyze produce outcomes comparable to those of the iconic omnibus programs. National implementation of the programs with long-run follow up that we analyze would substantially shrink the overall US Black-White earnings gap.

Keywords: skills, social mobility, inequality, human development

JEL Classification: J18, J13, J24, J31, D13

Suggested Citation

Garcia, Jorge Luis and Heckman, James J., Parenting Promotes Social Mobility within and Across Generations (October 26, 2022). University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper No. 2022-145, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4259242 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4259242

Jorge Luis Garcia

Clemson University - John E. Walker Department of Economics ( email )

Clemson, SC 29634
United States

University of Southern California - Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics ( email )

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James J. Heckman (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

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American Bar Foundation

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CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

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