Parents’ Perceptions and Children’s Education: Experimental Evidence from Malawi

Research Seminars
Academic Areas Economics and Public Policy
Rebecca Dizon-Ross, Prize Fellow in Economics, History, and Politics at Harvard University and Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business
June 12, 2015 | 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM | Friday
AC 2NMLT, Hyderabad, India
Open to Public
Abstract: Do parents’ inaccurate beliefs about their children’s academic skills distort investments in education? I analyze a field experiment conducted in Malawi and find that, at baseline, parents try to tailor their educational investments to their children’s academic level, but their inaccurate beliefs prevent them from doing so. Providing parents with information about their children’s academic performance causes them to update their beliefs and align their investments more closely with their children’s achievement. For example, most parents think that paying for secondary school is more valuable for higher-achieving children, but some parents are mistaken about their children’s relative achievement; parents who receive information reallocate resources towards their higher achievers. Poorer, less-educated parents have less accurate beliefs about their children than richer, more-educated parents, and update their beliefs and investments more in response to information. Inaccurate perceptions may thus exacerbate inequalities between richer and poorer households or societies.