Child Development, Parental Investments, and Social Capital (Job Market Paper)
This paper examines the impact of social capital on child development. It is innovative in measuring social capital at the individual level by using a latent factor model and a novel neighborhood survey from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods. Social capital reflects neighborhood connectedness and neighbors' engagement in child support and monitoring. I study the roles of social capital and parental investments in skill development within a unified framework and estimate a dynamic skill production function for children aged 6-15. Leveraging a natural experiment from the Chicago public housing demolition, I find that social capital is important for both cognitive and socio-emotional skills. Parental investments are effective for cognitive skills during these ages. Counterfactual experiments suggest that increasing social capital levels in low-socioeconomic-status (SES) neighborhoods to those in high-SES neighborhoods could reduce the skill gap between high-SES and low-SES children by 25% for cognitive skills and 80% for socio-emotional skills.
In this paper, we examine how parental investments, school quality, genetics, and their interactions influence child development. Specifically, we estimate the skill production functions for both cognitive and socio-emotional skills. We implement an instrumental variable approach and leverage information from school application portfolios to address the potential endogeneity of parental investments and school quality. We use polygenic scores to capture an individual’s genetic propensity for educational attainment. Using data from the Millennium Cohort Study in the UK, we find distinct patterns for cognitive skills and socio-emotional skills. Cognitive skills at age 7 are significantly influenced by parental investments, school quality, genetics, and lagged skills at age 5. Notably, school quality and polygenic scores are substitutes, indicating that better schools can mitigate skill disparities related to genetic predisposition for educational attainment. In contrast, socio-emotional skills at this stage are predominantly affected by previous skills and are less sensitive to investments.
Work in progress
Adapting to Climate Change with Migration: Tropical Cyclones and Human Capital Accumulation, with Siu Yuat Wong
The Philippines faces an annual average of ten tropical cyclones, five of which cause significant destruction. Climate change intensifies cyclones due to warmer waters. This paper identifies the impacts of tropical cyclones on children’s human capital accumulation and studies whether parental migration, acting as a form of insurance, can alleviate the negative impacts of cyclones in the Philippines. Using a panel dataset on migrant households, we estimate a dynamic model of parental migration and education investment, with an embedded education production function for children. We incorporate four mechanisms through which cyclones may impact a child’s educational outcomes into the model: income loss, changes in parents’ time inputs due to local employment loss or temporary out-migration, school disruptions, and health-related consequences. This approach allows us to disentangle and quantify the effects of each mechanism, as well as assess the potential of migration as a buffer. We aim to offer insights for policy recommendations to improve children's education outcomes amid cyclones.
Gene-environment Interaction Effects: Evidence from Early Childhood Programs, with Sarah Cattan