Eduardo Fe, David Gill, Victoria Prowse
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We investigate how childhood cognitive skills affect strategic sophistication and adult outcomes. In particular, we emphasize the importance of childhood theory-of-mind as a cognitive skill. We collected experimental data from more than seven hundred children in a variety of strategic interactions. First, we find that theory-of-mind ability and cognitive ability both predict level-k behavior. Second, older children respond to information about the cognitive ability of their opponent, which provides support for the emergence of a sophisticated strategic theory-of-mind. Third, theory-of-mind and age strongly predict whether children respond to intentions in a gift-exchange game, while cognitive ability has no influence, suggesting that different measures of cognitive skill correspond to different cognitive processes in strategic situations that involve understanding intentions. Using the ALSPAC birth-cohort study, we find that childhood theory-of-mind and cognitive ability are both associated with enhanced adult social skills, higher educational participation, better educational attainment, and lower fertility in young adulthood. Finally, we provide evidence that school spending improves theory-of-mind in childhood.
Snigdha Gupta, Maggie C. Kane, John A List, Liz Sablich, Lauren Supplee, Dana L Suskind
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Recommendations for Mitigating Threats to Scaling
Snigdha Gupta, John A List, Lauren Supplee, Dana L Suskind
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Failed to Scale: Embracing the Challenge of Scaling in Early Childhood
John A List
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All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. -Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
John A List, Azeem M Shaikh, Atom Vayalinkal
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List et al. (2019) provides a framework for testing multiple null hypotheses simultaneously using experimental data in which simple random sampling is used to assign treatment status to units. As in List et al. (2019), we rely on general results in Romano and Wolf (2010) to develop under weak assumptions a procedure that (i) asymptotically controls the familywise error rate - the probability of one or more false rejections - and (ii) is asymptotically balanced in that the marginal probability of rejecting any true null hypothesis is approximately equal in large samples. Our analysis departs from List et al. (2019) in that it further exploits observed, baseline covariates. The precise way in which these covariates are incorporated is based upon results in Lin (2013) in order to ensure that inferences are typically more powerful in large samples.
Amanda Chuan, John A List, Anya Samek
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Research has shown that giving disadvantaged families financial incentives to invest in their children could decrease socioeconomic inequality by enhancing human capital formation. Yet, within the household how are such gains achieved? We use a field experiment to investigate how parents allocate time when they receive financial incentives. We find that incentives increase investment in the target child. But, parents achieve these gains by substituting away from time spent with the child's sibling(s). An unintended consequence is that intrahousehold inequality increases and aggregate gains from the program are overstated when focusing only on target children.
Kazi Iqbal, Asad Islam, John A List, Vy Nguyen
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Whether, and to what extent, behavioral anomalies uncovered in the lab manifest themselves in the field remains of first order importance in finance and economics. We begin by examining behavior of retail traders/investors making investment decisions in constructed laboratory markets. Our results show that the behaviors of the traders are consistent with myopic loss aversion. We combine the lab results with a unique individual-level matched dataset on daily stock market transactions and portfolio positions over a two year period. We find that lab behaviors help to predict, but do not fully capture, the essential real-world trading analogs of retail traders.
John A List, Ragan Petrie, Anya Samek
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In the past several decades the experimental method has lent deep insights into economics. One surprising area that has contributed is the experimental study of children, where advances as varied as the evolution of human behaviors that shape markets and institutions to how early life influences shape later life outcomes have been explored. We first develop a framework for economic preference measurement that provides a lens into how to interpret data from experiments with children. Next, we survey work that provides general empirical insights within our framework. Finally, we provide 10 tips for pulling off experiments with children, including factors such as taking into account child competencies, causal identification, and logistical issues related to recruitment and implementation. We envision the experimental study of children as a high growth research area in the coming decades as social scientists begin to more fully appreciate that children are active participants in markets who (might) respond predictably to economic incentives.
Haruka Uchida
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Blinding identities during evaluations is often proposed as a way to combat discrimination and alleviate disparities, but previous studies have found mixed results. I implement blind review at an academic conference, and directly compare the scores that the same submitted paper received from blind and non-blind reviewers. With this design, I find that the effects of blinding differed by how a subject would perform "under the status quo" without blinding. Blinding did not significantly impact the gender score gap among those that would perform the best or the worst under the status quo, but significantly exacerbated the gap among applicants who would have scored near the median without blinding. Consequently, the effect of blinding on acceptance rate gaps varied with the overall acceptance rate. This can help reconcile why blinding has "worked" in some contexts while not in others. Ultimately, it is necessary to examine distributional effects to understand exactly in which situations blinding produces desired outcomes. Even when the average treatment effect on gaps is small, this may mask important heterogeneity for individuals at different margins.
Erwin Bulte, John A List, Daan van Soest
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Incomplete contracts are the rule rather than the exception, and any incentive scheme faces the risk of improving performance on incented aspects of a task at the detriment of performance on non-incented aspects. Recent research documents the effect of loss-framed versus gain-framed incentives on incentivized behavior, but how do such incentives affect overall performance? We explore potential trade-offs by conducting field experiments in an artificial "workplace". We explore two types of incentive spillovers: those contemporaneous to the incented task and those subsequent to the incented task. We report three main results. First, consonant with the extant literature, a loss aversion incentive induces greater effort on the incented task. Second, offsetting this productivity gain, we find that the quality of work decreases if quality is not specified in the incentive contract. Third, we find no evidence of harmful spillover effects to subsequent tasks; if anything, the loss aversion incentive induces more effort in subsequent tasks. Taken together, our results highlight that measuring and accounting for incentive spillovers are important when considering their overall impact.
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