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 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.”
“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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When Families Want Sons, Do Daughters Get an Education?

Gender bias in families is evident in many regions, but the evidence to date does not allow us to fully understand its effects. Stacy H. Chen (National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, GRIPS), Yen-Chien Chen (Chi-Nan University, Taiwan), and Jin-Tan Liu (National Taiwan University and NBER) studied the educational outcomes of children in more than 965,000 families in Taiwan to better understand the experiences of daughters and sons.
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Preschool and Parents’ Reactions in a Developing Country: Evidence from a School Construction Experiment in Cambodia

preschool boy

Studies from low-, middle-, and high-income countries show that children brought up in a more favorable early environment benefit in the long run. They are healthier, taller, have higher cognitive ability and educational attainment, and earn significantly higher wages. As a result, preschool construction programs are often assumed to hold considerable promise to increase school readiness while reducing socioeconomic gaps in human capital development. Researchers Adrien Bouguen (University of Mannheim), Deon Filmer (World Bank), Karen Macours (Paris School of Economics and INRA), and Sophie Naudeau (World Bank) examined a school construction project in Cambodia to see if this kind of effort had the desired results. They found that a poor understanding of parent response may be at the heart of the program’s disappointing results.
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Head Start’s Long-Run Impact

Head Start impact

Because experiences in early childhood are known to influence child development, preschool programs are often viewed as policy interventions with the most potential to improve the prospects of children from low-income families. In a new study, Owen Thompson (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee) examined the impact of Head Start on a variety of socioeconomic outcomes for participants through age 48.
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