Text-Messaging Parents Can Help Kids Learn to Read—Especially If the Curriculum Is Personalized and Differentiated

Reading growth with text-messaging

Educational interventions based on behavioral economics principles have shown promise for combatting some of the persistent disparities in education outcomes. Researchers have studied text-messaging “nudges” and found them to be successful at all levels of education, from pre-K to the transition to college.

With this in mind, Christopher Doss, Erin M. Fahle, Susanna Loeb, and Benjamin York dug deeper to look at how personalizing text messages to the recipient could make a difference. Their work aims to identify the importance of personalization and differentiation within a text-messaging program designed to help parents of kindergarteners support the literacy development of their children at home.
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Text-Messaging Program READY4K! Supports Early Literacy Development in the Home

Sample Ready4K texts

Racial and socioeconomic gaps in academic achievement begin early in life, with large gaps in skills present by the time children enter kindergarten. One factor contributing to this educational inequality is the great variation in home learning experiences.

Researchers and practitioners have taken a variety of approaches to help parents support the literacy development of their children. Examples include interventions during doctors’ visits or hosting workshops for parents at schools. Unfortunately, these traditional approaches are hampered by their relative infrequency and/or substantial demands on parents’ time.

Benjamin York, Susanna Loeb, and Christopher Doss wondered whether something as common as a text message could improve the home learning experience. “In this study, we field a randomized control trial to test the efficacy of a text messaging intervention that leverages lessons from behavioral economics on overcoming barriers to adult behavior change.”
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Does an Inheritance Make You Work Less?

Andrew Carnegie

Many people are dying wealthier and leaving larger estates. At the same time, the old-age economic dependency ratio—the number of people aged 65 and over as a percentage of the total labor force—will increase in many parts of the world. During his life, Gilded Age millionaire philanthropist Andrew Carnegie asserted that a large inheritance causes people to work less. If this is true, the old-age dependency ratio may worsen even further, and it would be useful to design sensible tax policies for bequests and inheritances accordingly. Researchers Erlend E. Bø, Elin Halvorsen, and Thor O. Thoresen explore the effect of inherited wealth on labor force participation in their recent study.
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When the Fire Goes Out, Children Face Lasting Effects: Evidence from the Indonesian Forest Fires

pregnant woman

Recent devastating wildfires have drawn attention to how climate change is expected to make weather phenomena more unpredictable and wildfires more frequent and difficult to control. Little is known about how the accompanying air pollution affects long-term outcomes in children, who are especially vulnerable to its effects.

Maria Rosales-Rueda and Margaret Triyana analyzed the impacts of early-life exposure to the 1997 Indonesian forest fires on children’s long-term health outcomes in Indonesia. These fires were among the most intense fires in Indonesia’s history, emitting levels of particulate matter similar to the hazardous haze from agricultural burning or chronic exposure to indoor air pollution generated by the use of biomass fuels.
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Who Needs a Ring? The 1996 Welfare Reform’s “Independence Effect”

Ratio of earnings and employment for single mothers vs. single men

In 1996 federal welfare reform replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, the oldest welfare program for the poor, with the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. The primary goal of this historic reform was to encourage work and decrease welfare dependence. However, another explicit goal was to decrease single motherhood and encourage marriage. This emphasis on single motherhood and marriage is based on a long-standing criticism of the AFDC program—that it discouraged marriage because the eligibility rules made it difficult for married couples to receive benefits from the program.

In a recent study, Robert Moffitt, Brian Phelan, and Anne Winkler take advantage of the passage of time to reexamine whether welfare reform had its intended effect of discouraging single motherhood and encouraging marriage.
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Having More Siblings Reduces Education Attainment, but Not by Much

Two trends are often observed as a country develops: a decline in family size and a rise in education attainment. Are they related? In particular, could the fall in family size be one reason for the increase in education levels? Hui Ren Tan (Boston University) considered this question within the context of the 19th and early 20th century United States.
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Unintended Consequences—How Targeting Schools for Special Benefits in France Can Do More Harm Than Good

student reading

Compensatory education policies—policies aimed at offsetting educational inequalities between socially and academically disadvantaged children and more advantaged students—are widely used and represent a significant part of public education spending in many countries. In France, they correspond to about ten percent of the annual spending per pupil. They provide underprivileged schools with additional resources to compensate for social and academic disadvantages. In a new JHR paper, Laurent Davezies (CREST) and Manon Garrouste (University of Lille) propose some evidence to explain why these programs are often not working as intended.
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Do Conferences Contribute to Academic Impact?

Speaker presenting at a conference

Academics invest significant resources in attending and organizing conferences, and yet—until now—there has been strikingly little empirical analysis that tests the effectiveness of these meetings in promoting academic impact. In a new paper for JHR, Fernanda Leite Lopez de Leon (University of Kent) and Ben McQuillin (University of East Anglia) present compelling evidence for the impact of conferences in increasing the visibility of presenting papers.
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Poorly Rated NYC Schools Attract Better Teachers

teacher

The idea of holding schools accountable for students’ performance has stood at the center of school-reform efforts in the United States for more than two decades. One of the many questions that have been raised is whether accountability efforts could backfire by driving good teachers out of poorly rated schools, creating a vicious cycle for principals attempting to turn their institutions around.

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Does Parents’ Access to Family Planning Increase Children’s Opportunities? Evidence from the War on Poverty and the Early Years of Title X

For the past several decades, the U.S. government has invested heavily in anti-poverty programs, like the Earned Income Tax Credit and Head Start, aimed at closing the resource gap for disadvantaged children and improving their long-term outcomes. There is a vast literature studying the impacts of such programs, yet there is one potential source of disparity that has been largely overlooked: family planning.
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