Detecting Drivers of Behavior at an Early Age: Evidence from a Longitudinal Field Experiment

Produced by: 
National Bureau of Economic Research
Available from: 
December 2020
Paper author(s): 
Marco Castillo
John A. List
Ragan Petrie
Anya Samek
Topic: 
Demographic Economics - Migration
Education - Health
Year: 
2021

We use field experiments with nearly 900 children to investigate how skills developed at ages 3-5 drive later-life outcomes. We find that skills map onto three distinct factors - cognitive skills, executive functions, and economic preferences. Returning to the children up to 7 years later, we find that executive functions, but not cognitive skills, predict the likelihood of receiving disciplinary referrals. Economic preferences have an independent effect: children who displayed impatience at ages 3-5 were more likely to receive disciplinary referrals. Random assignment to a parenting program reduced disciplinary referrals. This effect was not mediated by skills or preferences.

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