Raise Them Right

Kevin Lewis

June 19, 2022

Hovering at the polls: Do helicopter parents prefer paternalistic political policies?
Chrisitan Lindke & Daniel Oppenheimer
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

Lakoff's model of political ideology proposes people's beliefs about how government should operate are grounded in beliefs about how families should operate. Previous research shows the left-right political spectrum can be explained by differences in preferences for nurturant (Democrats) and disciplinarian (Republican) parenting styles. We extend the theory to another dimension, helicopter versus free range parenting styles. In Study 1, we find parenting attitudes strongly predict paternalistic policy attitudes - more than ideology, party identity, or any other measured demographic variables. In Study 2, we attempt to establish a causal link, but find manipulating preferences for helicopter parenting does not influence policy preferences as Lakoff's model would suggest. In Study 3, we identify a latent variable that predicts preferences for paternalism in parenting, policy, and a host of other domains such as business, medicine, and education. We discuss implications for Lakoff's theory, the political psychology of libertarianism/paternalism, and society at large.

An Equilibrium Model of the Impact of Increased Public Investment in Early Childhood Education
Jonathan Borowsky et al.
NBER Working Paper, June 2022

Recent policy proposals call for significant new investments in early care and education (ECE). These policies are designed to reduce the burden of child care costs, support parental employment, and foster child development by increasing access to high-quality care, especially for children in lower-income families. In this paper, we propose and calibrate a model of supply and demand for different ECE service and teacher types to estimate equilibrium family expenditures, participation in ECE, maternal labor supply, teacher wages, market ECE prices, and program costs under different policy regimes. Under a policy of broadly expanded subsidies that limits family payments for ECE to no more than 7% of income among those up to 250% of national median income, we estimate that mothers' employment would increase by six percentage points while full-time employment would increase by nearly 10 percentage points, with substantially larger increases among lower-income families. The policy would also induce a shift from informal care and parent-only care to center- and home-based providers, which are higher-quality on average, with larger shifts for lower-income families. Despite the increased use of formal care, family expenditures on ECE services would decrease throughout most of the income distribution. For example, families in the bottom three income quintiles would experience expenditure reductions of 76%, 68%, and 55%, respectively. Finally, teacher wages and market prices would increase to attract workers with higher levels of education. We also estimate the impact of a narrower subsidy expansion for families with an income up to 85% of national median income.

Breaking the Cycle? Intergenerational Effects of an Anti-Poverty Program in Early Childhood
Andrew Barr & Chloe Gibbs
Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming

Despite substantial evidence that resources and outcomes are transmitted across generations, there has been limited inquiry into the extent to which anti-poverty programs actually disrupt the cycle of bad outcomes. We leverage the rollout of the United States' largest early childhood program, Head Start, to estimate the effect of early childhood exposure among mothers on their children's long-term outcomes. We find evidence of intergenerational transmission of effects in the form of increased educational attainment, reduced teen pregnancy, and reduced criminal engagement in the second generation. These effects correspond to an estimated increase in discounted second-generation wages of 6 to 11 percent depending on specification. Exploration of earlier outcomes suggests an important role for changes in parenting behavior and potential non-cognitive channels.

Examining social genetic effects on educational attainment via parental educational attainment, income, and parenting
Jinni Su et al.
Journal of Family Psychology, forthcoming

Higher parental educational attainment is associated with higher offspring educational attainment. In this study, we incorporated genotypic and phenotypic information from fathers, mothers, and offspring to disentangle the genetic and socioenvironmental pathways underlying this association. Data were drawn from a sample of individuals of European ancestry from the collaborative study on the genetics of alcoholism (n = 4,089; 51% female). Results from path analysis indicated that paternal and maternal educational attainment genome-wide polygenic scores were associated with offspring educational attainment, above and beyond the effect of offspring education polygenic score. Parental educational attainment, income, and parenting behaviors served as important socioenvironmental pathways that mediated the effect of parental education polygenic score on offspring educational attainment. Our study highlights the importance of using genetically informed family studies to disentangle the genetic and socioenvironmental pathways underlying parental influences on human development.

Intergenerational Mobility and Childhood Obesity: Evidence from Genes 
Maoyong Fan, Yanhong Jin & Man Zhuang
Rutgers Working Paper, April 2022

We show that childhood obesity leads to lower intergenerational income and social mobility by adopting an instrumental variable approach based on genetic information related to body weight. We examine the mechanisms that help explain the effects of childhood obesity on intergenerational mobility and find that childhood obesity negatively affects adult health, education attainment, and job opportunities. Our results suggest that childhood obesity interventions may have far-reaching benefits by improving socioeconomic mobility and equality. This study provides a new approach of using genetic information to identify causality in social science.

Short-Term Effects of Tax Credits on Rates of Child Maltreatment Reports in the United States
Nicole Kovski et al.
Pediatrics, forthcoming

We linked weekly EITC and CTC refund data from the Internal Revenue Service to state-specific child maltreatment report data from 48 states and the District of Columbia during the 2015 through 2018 tax seasons (January - April). We leveraged the natural experiment of a legislated change in the timing of EITC and CTC transfer payments to low-income families and quasi-experimental methods to estimate the association between EITC and CTC payments and child maltreatment reports.

EITC and CTC payments were associated with lower state-level rates of child maltreatment reports. For each additional $1000 in per-child EITC and CTC tax refunds, state-level rates of reported child maltreatment declined in the week of and 4 weeks following refund payments by an overall estimated 5.0% (95% confidence interval = 2.3%-7.7%). 

Determinants of noncognitive skills: Mediating effects of siblings' interaction and parenting quality
Iryna Hayduk & Maude Toussaint-Comeau
Contemporary Economic Policy, forthcoming

This paper sheds light on the formation process of noncognitive skills by examining the determinants of a host of personality traits. Using data from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS), for individuals in larger families (three or more children), we find having a same-sex sibling leads to improved long-run noncognitive skills and positive personality traits. The latter result is driven entirely by females. We examine potential mechanisms by exploring the links between parental investment and sibling interactions. The results could possibly speak to public actions to enhance child development and human capital accumulation.

Medicaid Expansion and Contraceptive Use Among Female High-School Students
Greta Kilmer et al.
American Journal of Preventive Medicine, forthcoming

Analyses conducted in 2021 assessed state-level Youth Risk Behavior Survey data among female students in grades 9-12 who reported being sexually active. States that expanded Medicaid were compared with other states in 2013 (baseline) and 2019 (after expansion). Measured outcomes included self-reported use of moderately effective or highly effective, long-acting reversible contraception at last sex. Long-acting reversible contraception included intrauterine devices and implants. Moderately effective contraception included birth control pills, injectables, patches, or rings. Results were weighted and adjusted for age and race/ethnicity.

Students in Medicaid expansion states (n=27,564) did not differ significantly from those in nonexpansion states (n=6,048) at baseline or after expansion with respect to age, age at first sex, or the number of sexual partners in the past 3 months; however, race/ethnicity population characteristics changed over time. Postexpansion increased use of intrauterine devices/implants was greater in Medicaid expansion states than in nonexpansion states (238.1% increase vs 120.0% increase, adjusted p=0.047). For those aged 16-17 years, Medicaid expansion states had a 283.3% increase in intrauterine device/implant use compared with an increase of 69.7% in nonexpansion states (adjusted p=0.004).


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