Raising Right

Kevin Lewis

November 21, 2021

Health Endowments, Schooling Allocation in the Family, and Longevity: Evidence from US Twins
Peter Savelyev et al.
Journal of Health Economics, forthcoming

We analyze data from the Minnesota Twin Registry (MTR), combined with the Socioeconomic Survey of Twins (SST), and new mortality data, and contribute to two bodies of literature. First, we demonstrate a beneficial causal effect of education on health and longevity in contrast to other twin-based studies of the US population, which show little or no effect of education on health. Second, we present evidence that is consistent with parental compensation through education for differences in their children’s endowments that predict health, but find no evidence that parents reinforce differences in endowments that predict earnings. We argue that there is a bias towards detecting reinforcement both in this paper and in the literature. Despite this bias, we still find statistical evidence of compensating behavior. We account for observed and unobserved confounding factors, sample selection bias, and measurement error in education.

Spanking and externalizing problems: Examining within-subject associations
Joshua Pritsker
Child Development, November/December 2021, Pages 2595-2602

This study examined the effects of spanking on externalizing on a within-subject level, while excluding causally irrelevant between-subject variance. Results from two longitudinal studies which used participants from the Child Development Project (n = 585) were reanalyzed with a random-intercept cross-lagged panel model using yearly measurements over ages 6–8. After removing between-subject variance, there were no significant effects of general spanking on externalizing (β = .06, .07). However, when done without objects and at a rate of about once per month or less, spanking showed beneficial effects (β = −.17, −.21). Results suggest that previous findings may be due to a failure to separate between-subject and within-subject variance. Additionally, results illustrate the need to examine limited spanking separately from more general forms of physical punishment. 

Support for Paid Family Leave among Small Employers Increases during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Ann Bartel et al.
NBER Working Paper, November 2021 

The United States is one of the few countries that does not guarantee paid family leave (PFL) to workers. Proposals for PFL legislation are often met with opposition from employer organizations, who fear disruptions to business, especially among small employers. But there has been limited data on employers' views. We surveyed firms with 10-99 employees in New York and New Jersey on their attitudes towards PFL programs before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. We found high support for state PFL programs in 2019 that rose substantially over the course of the pandemic: by the fall of 2020, almost 70% of firms were supportive. Increases in support were larger among firms that had an employee use PFL, suggesting that experience with PFL led to employers becoming more supportive. Thus, concerns about negative impacts on small employers should not impede efforts to expand PFL at the state or federal levels. 

Neural vulnerability and hurricane-related media are associated with post-traumatic stress in youth
Anthony Steven Dick et al.
Nature Human Behaviour, November 2021, Pages 1578–1589

The human toll of disasters extends beyond death, injury and loss. Post-traumatic stress (PTS) can be common among directly exposed individuals, and children are particularly vulnerable. Even children far removed from harm’s way report PTS, and media-based exposure may partially account for this phenomenon. In this study, we examine this issue using data from nearly 400 9- to 11-year-old children collected before and after Hurricane Irma, evaluating whether pre-existing neural patterns moderate associations between hurricane experiences and later PTS. The ‘dose’ of both self-reported objective exposure and media exposure predicted PTS, the latter even among children far from the hurricane. Furthermore, neural responses in brain regions associated with anxiety and stress conferred particular vulnerability. For example, heightened amygdala reactivity to fearful stimuli moderated the association between self-reported media exposure and PTS. Collectively, these findings show that for some youth with measurable vulnerability, consuming extensive disaster-related media may offer an alternative pathway to disaster exposure that transcends geography and objective risk. 

Socioeconomic status impacts genetic influences on the longitudinal dynamic relationship between temperament and general cognitive ability in childhood: The Louisville Twin Study
Deborah Finkel et al.
Child Development, forthcoming

The current analysis investigates genetic and environmental influences on the bidirectional relationships between temperament and general cognitive ability (GCA). Measures of GCA and three temperament factors (persistence, approach, and reactivity) were collected from 486 children ages 4–9 years (80% white, 50% female) from the Louisville Twin Study from 1976 to 1998. The results indicated a bidirectional dynamic model of temperament influencing subsequent GCA and GCA influencing subsequent temperament. The dynamic relationship between temperament and GCA arose primarily from shared genetic variance, particularly in families with higher socioeconomic status, where input from temperament contributed on average 20% to genetic variance in GCA versus 0% in lower SES families. 

When Size Matters: IV Estimates of Sibship Size on Educational Attainment in the U.S.
Christina Diaz & Jeremy Fiel
Population Research and Policy Review, December 2021, Pages 1195–1220

Children with additional siblings appear to fare worse on a variety of developmental and educational outcomes across social contexts. Yet, the causal relation between sibship size and later attainment remains dubious, as factors that influence parents’ fertility decisions also shape children’s socioeconomic prospects. We apply instrumental variables methods that treat multiple births (e.g., twins, triplets) and same-sex composition as natural experiments to test whether increases in sibship size have a causal effect on the educational attainment of older siblings in the U.S. We pool several nationally representative datasets, including the Child and Young Adult Cohorts of the NLSY79 and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, to obtain adequate sample sizes for these methods. Although results indicate that the presence of an additional sibling has a trivial effect on the attainment of older siblings for most families (those with two to four siblings), a large penalty arises with the introduction of a fifth sibling. Our findings imply that the costs associated with sibship size are likely concentrated among the largest families. 

Value added: Digital modeling of dialogic questioning promotes positive parenting during shared reading
Zachary Stuckelman, Gabrielle Strouse & Georgene Troseth
Journal of Family Psychology, forthcoming

American parents describe bonding with their child as a primary reason for engaging in shared picture book reading. One prominent reading intervention (dialogic reading) reliably increases language outcomes, but until recently, has not been evaluated for how well it promotes warm parent–child interactions. In this study, a digital application designed to promote parent–child conversation by modeling dialogic questioning also increased mutuality, positivity, and on-task behaviors. Three- and 4-year-old American children (n = 73) and their parents were randomly assigned to read 10 times at home either: (a) an eBook with a character who modeled dialogic questioning (experimental); (b) a version of the same eBook without modeling (control); or (c) to choose between versions for each reading (choice). An adaption of the PARCHISY coding scheme was used to evaluate parent, child, and dyadic behaviors during in-lab readings at the beginning and end of the 2-week home reading period. At the final visit, experimental group families showed significant growth in mutuality (i.e., responsiveness, reciprocity, and cooperation), on-task behaviors, and parent and child positivity, and displayed more of these behaviors than families not exposed to modeling. Some increases in mutuality and positivity also emerged in families in the choice condition, but fewer than in families who only read the eBook with modeling. Parents and children exhibited no significant changes in negativity in any condition. This study suggests that carefully designed digital technology has the potential to foster positive shared reading interactions between parents and young children. 

Socioeconomic Disparities in Parental Spending after Universal Cash Transfers: The Case of the Alaska Dividend
Mariana Amorim
Social Forces, forthcoming 

Parental child-related spending represents an important pathway to promote children’s human capital development and material well-being. It is also, however, a pathway that perpetuates social inequalities given the well-known socioeconomic divide in parental spending on children. Although several studies have documented the extent to which current family income is associated with spending on children, we still know little about the causal effects of additional income on child-related spending across the socioeconomic strata. In this paper, I examine the effects of income gains due to universal and unconditional cash transfers from the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend on child-related spending. Using longitudinal household expenditure data from the 1996–2015 Consumer Expenditure Surveys, I exploit exogenous variation in the generosity of the Alaska Dividend to estimate short- and long-term disparities in parental expenditures resulting from payouts. Results provide a unique opportunity to compare the behavior of high- and low-income parents after an income boost. I find that low- and middle-income parents use cash transfers to catch up with their more affluent counterparts in the short and long term. Low-income parents are, however, unable to keep up with the long-term increases in child-related spending made by their middle-income counterparts. Implications of results for the reproduction of socioeconomic inequalities and for current and proposed cash-transfer policies are discussed.


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