Raising People

Kevin Lewis

February 11, 2024

Are children spending too much time on enrichment activities?
Carolina Caetano, Gregorio Caetano & Eric Nielsen
Economics of Education Review, February 2024

We study the effects of enrichment activities such as reading, homework, and extracurricular lessons on children’s cognitive and non-cognitive skills. We take into consideration the opportunity cost of spending time on enrichment, as it may replace activities such as sleep and socializing. Our study controls for selection on unobservables using a control function approach that leverages the fact that many children spend zero hours per week on enrichment activities. At zero enrichment, confounders vary but enrichment does not, giving us direct information about the effect of confounders on skills. Using time diary data available in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), we find that the net effect of the last hour of enrichment is close to zero for cognitive skills and negative for non-cognitive skills. The negative effects for non-cognitive skills are concentrated in high school, consistent with elevated academic pressure related to college admissions.

Intra-Household Insurance and the Intergenerational Transmission of Income Risk
Francesco Agostinelli et al.
NBER Working Paper, January 2024

This paper studies the mechanisms and the extent to which parental wage risk passes through to children's skill development. Through a quantitative dynamic labor supply model in which two parents choose whether to work short or long hours or not work at all, time spent with children, and child-related expenditures, we find that income risk impacts skill accumulation, permanently lowering children's skill levels. To the extent that making up for cognitive skill losses during childhood is hard -- as available evidence suggests -- uninsurable income risk can negatively impact the labor market prospects of future generations.

Pre-COVID respiratory sinus arrhythmia moderates associations between COVID-19 stress and child externalizing behaviors: Testing neurobiological stress theories
Hilary Skov et al.
Development and Psychopathology, forthcoming

Exposure to stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic contributes to psychopathology risk, yet not all children are negatively impacted. The current study examined a parasympathetic biomarker of stress sensitivity, respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), as a moderator of the effects of exposure to pandemic stress on child internalizing and externalizing behaviors in a sample of children experiencing economic marginalization. Three to five years pre-pandemic, when children were preschool-aged, RSA during baseline and a challenging parent-child interaction were collected. Mid-pandemic, between November 2020 and March 2021, children’s exposure to pandemic stress and internalizing and externalizing behaviors were collected. Results demonstrated that children who, pre-pandemic, demonstrated blunted parasympathetic reactivity (i.e., no change in RSA relative to baseline) during the dyadic challenge exhibited elevated risk for externalizing behaviors mid-pandemic. Further, this risk was greatest for children exposed to high and moderate levels of pandemic stress. Consistent with diathesis stress and polyvagal frameworks, these conditional effects suggest that blunted parasympathetic reactivity in response to stress in early childhood may escalate the development of externalizing behaviors following stress exposure at school age.

Preliminary examination of the effects of an early parenting intervention on amygdala-orbitofrontal cortex resting-state functional connectivity among high-risk children: A randomized clinical trial
Marta Korom et al.
Development and Psychopathology, forthcoming

We examined the long-term causal effects of an evidence-based parenting program delivered in infancy on children’s emotion regulation and resting-state functional connectivity (rs-fc) during middle childhood. Families were referred to the study by Child Protective Services (CPS) as part of a diversion from a foster care program. A low-risk group of families was also recruited. CPS-involved families were randomly assigned to receive the target (Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up, ABC) or a control intervention (Developmental Education for Families, DEF) before infants turned 2. Both interventions were home-based, manualized, and 10-sessions long. During middle childhood, children underwent a 6-min resting-state functional MRI scan. Amygdala seed-based rs-fc analysis was completed with intervention group as the group-level predictor of interest. Fifty-seven children (NABC = 21; NDEF = 17; NCOMP = 19; Mage = 10.02 years, range = 8.08–12.14) were scanned successfully. The DEF group evidenced negative left amygdala↔OFC connectivity, whereas connectivity was near zero in the ABC and comparison groups (ABCvsDEF: Cohen’s d = 1.17). ABC may enhance high-risk children’s regulatory neurobiology outcomes ∼8 years after the intervention was completed.

Parental Work Characteristics and Children’s Insufficient Sleep
Cassidy Castiglione, Mackenzie Brewer & Rachel Tolbert Kimbro
Population Research and Policy Review, December 2023

Insufficient sleep for children is an understudied risk factor for health issues and poor educational outcomes. We argue that research has paid scant attention to upstream factors, such as parental employment, that may impact family processes and children’s sleep outcomes. This study examines how parental work characteristics, including both mothers’ and fathers’ work hours per week and occupation type, associate with children’s insufficient sleep among a national sample of dual-earning couples and their fifth grade children in the ECLS-K:2010–2011 kindergarten cohort (n = 4000). We use logistic regression models to predict insufficient sleep (less than 9 h of sleep per night) after controlling for demographic and socioeconomic characteristics related to child sleep. Among our sample, a substantial portion of fifth graders, 32%, had insufficient sleep. We also find that both parents’ work characteristics mattered for children’s insufficient sleep but in different ways. The risk of insufficient sleep for children was higher when mothers (but not fathers) worked 35 h or more per week, net of paternal work hours and covariates. We found a similar pattern using a combined measure of mother–father work hours. Additionally, the risk of insufficient sleep for children was higher when fathers worked in construction and production occupations. Our findings contribute to research on the social determinants of sleep and demonstrate the importance of considering parental work characteristics for children’s sleep outcomes.

Examining the impact of Medicaid payments for immediate postpartum long-acting reversible contraception on the mental health of low-income mothers
Daniel Marthey, Hannah Rochford & Elena Andreyeva
Health Services Research, forthcoming

Data Sources and Study Setting: We used national secondary data on self-reported mental health status in the past 30 days from the core component (2014–2019) of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

Study Design: We estimated linear probability models for reporting any days of not good mental health in the past 30 days. We adjusted for individual-level factors, state-level factors, and state and year fixed effects. Our primary independent variable was an indicator for IPP LARC payment reform. We examined the effect of the Medicaid payment reforms on self-reported mental health status in the past 30 days using difference-in-differences and event-study designs.

Principal Findings: State adoption of Medicaid IPP LARC reforms was associated with significant reductions (between 5.7% and 11.5%) in the predicted probability of reporting any days of not good mental health among low-income mothers. Treatment effects appeared to be driven by respondents reporting two or more children (less than 18 years of age) in the household (ATT = -0.028, p = 0.04). Results are robust to a series of sensitivity tests and alternative estimation strategies.


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