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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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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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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Is watching TV bad for you? It depends…

Since television was introduced to a large audience around the mid-20th century, its effects have been debated. A widespread concern has been that television encourages a particularly passive form of engagement, and thus may damage intellectual development. But the existing empirical evidence is not conclusive. Øystein Hernæs, Simen Markussen, and Knut Røed saw the deregulation of television in Norway as an opportunity to explore what a large-scale change in television consumption can teach us about the effects of TV on young people.
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Study: Program with Tablets and Texts Improves Family Reading Time

tablets

“Tablets and texts nudge parents to read to kids” describes a new JHR-published study aimed at finding ways to help families increase parents’ time reading to their children. The Parents and Children Together (PACT) experiment involved having parents set goals for reading time. Each family received a tablet preloaded with children’s books, and the parents received text prompts to follow up on reading goals. They also received weekly feedback on the actual amount of time they spent reading and earned digital rewards for meeting goals.

According to one of the researchers, Susan Mayer, a professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, the goal was to create a program using behavioral tools “to help parents overcome cognitive roadblocks to spending time reading to their children.”

The researchers report two key findings:
“Parents in the treatment group doubled the amount of time they spent reading to their child.”
and
“Parents in the treatment group read an average of almost five books per week, while those who were not, read an average of two or three.”

For the full study, see “Using Behavioral Insights to Increase Parental Engagement: The Parents and Children Together Intervention,” by Susan E. Mayer, Ariel Kalil, Philip Oreopoulos and Sebastian Gallegos.

Photo credit: Robert Kozloff, University of Chicago

Higher quality interactions between caregivers and children in daycare improve child development

Although there is a rich body of evidence on the effects of preschool or daycare attendance, especially for the United States, substantially less is known about critical dimensions of the quality of these services, in particular for very young children. M. Caridad Araujo, Marta Dormal, and Norbert Schady (Inter-American Development Bank) developed a research project with the goal of understanding how the quality of caregiver–child interactions in daycare affects child development.
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Teacher Effects beyond the Test

Though many studies have shown that teachers have large effects on student achievement, we know little about the degree to which teachers affect a broader set of student outcomes. Using data from six large school districts, Matthew A. Kraft (Brown University) estimated how teachers affect a range of student skills and competencies beyond those measured by multiple-choice tests.
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A Two-Child Limit Imposed on Political Candidates in India—Does It Work?

probability of third child and sex ratio before and after two-child policy

In India, policy-makers have looked to population control as a means of increasing resources per capita and reducing widespread poverty. Since 1992, eleven Indian states have experimented with restricting elected village council positions to candidates with two or fewer children. The hope is that leaders with small families would inspire their constituents to follow suit. In a new study, researchers S. Anukriti (Boston College) and Abhishek Chakravarty (University of Manchester) found the policy was effective in reducing family sizes, but it worsened the sex ratio as families favored boys.
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