Inequality at Home: The Role of Parenting in the Diverging Destinies of Rich and Poor Children

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Event Type: 
Brown Bag
Date and Time: 
Monday, January 12, 2015
2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Ariel Kalil
Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago

Children face very different chances of getting ahead in life depending on the circumstances of their birth. Parenting and its role in the diverging destinies of rich and poor children are discussed in this paper. Inequality begins at home. It develops from the myriad differences in the ways advantaged and disadvantaged parents interact with their children. Traditional policy interventions fail to attack the root cause of achievement gaps. To equalize the playing field, governments may need to invest in parents so parents can better invest in their children. Unfortunately, large-scale parenting interventions typically yield modest effect sizes at best and often do not even change children’s skills in the long term. Understanding what motivates parents to invest in their children could have a major impact on the design of policies to reduce inequality in children’s skill development. Insights from the field of behavioral economics can inform this question.