Using Behavioral Insights to Increase Parental Engagement: The Parents and Children Together Intervention

Susan E. Mayer, Ariel Kalil, Philip Oreopoulos, Sebastian Gallegos

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52 Scopus citations


Parental engagement plays a key role in children's future success. We implemented a behaviorally informed field experiment designed to increase the time parents spend using a digital library on an electronic tablet to read to their children. Behavioral tools---reminders, goal setting, and social rewards---more than doubled the amount of time parents spent reading using the electronic application (one standard deviation effect size) after the six-week intervention. The largest gains were for the most present-oriented parents. Our findings suggest substantial promise for the application of behavioral tools to parenting activities that promote investment in children's human capital. Susan E. Mayer is a professor and dean emeritus at University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy ( Ariel Kalil is a professor at University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. Philip Oreopoulos is a professor of economics and public policy at University of Toronto. Sebastian Gallegos is an economist at the Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, DC He previously worked at the Department of Economics at Princeton University, where most of this work was completed. The authors thank AndrÉ Richter and Martin Eckhoff Andresen and other members of the Behavioral Insights and Parenting Lab PhD workshop for helpful comments, as well as Keri Lintz and Jill Gandhi for their contributions to the study design and fieldwork. This experiment is listed in the American Economic Association Registry for Randomized Controlled Trials, #AEARCTR-0000804. The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Center for Human Potential and Public Policy and the Harpel Initiative at the University of Chicago and from an anonymous foundation. Dr. Gallegos is indebted to the late Robert J. LaLonde for being an inspiration as a mentor, economist, and human being. Gallegos also thanks the Center for Studies of Conflict and Social Cohesion (CONICYT/FONDAP/15130009). The data used in these analyses and supporting materials for use of the data will be available from six months of the article's publication date.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)900-925
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Human Resources
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020


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