Opening the Black Box of Primary Effects: Relative Risk Aversion and Maternal Time Investments in Preschool Children

Cardona A, Diewald M (2014) SFB 882 Working Paper Series; 36.
Bielefeld: DFG Research Center (SFB) 882 From Heterogeneities to Inequalities.

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Abstract
Judging from the abundant and expanding literature on educational inequalities, the apparent consensus is that divergent educational outcomes of individuals can be explained by two main mechanisms: classspecific differences in children’s skills (primary effects) and educational choices, net of skills (secondary effects). Contrary to the widespread agreement that primary effects stem from differences in parental tangible and cultural resources and that secondary effects result from decisions made based on class-specific constraints, we contend that parents across social classes invest in their children differently for equivalent levels of children’s perceived skills—thus, primary effects and secondary effects work in similar ways. Formulating a rational-choice model of primary effects, we hypothesize that parental investments in children’s skills during the early stages of their life course are stratified according to the combined effects of relative risk aversion and cumulative advantage. Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) and controlling for parental resources, we tested this hypothesis by asking whether mothers spend more or less time engaged in cognitively stimulating activities with their preschool children at age 5 to 6 depending on the child’s observed past language skills and the parents’ social class. Ordinary least squares estimates suggest that mothers’ activities with their children not only are stratified across social classes but also reflect a class-specific reaction to children’s observed past ability consistent with our assumed mechanisms. Lower-class mothers invest in cognitively stimulating activities in a selective way: the higher the perceived ability of the child, the more effort is invested in these activities; in contrast, higher-class mothers do not differentiate their investment according to their child’s observed ability. Level of maternal education and extent of child care support in the household have an additional positive impact on levels of activity. Implications of the results and possible extensions of the model are discussed.
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Cardona A, Diewald M. Opening the Black Box of Primary Effects: Relative Risk Aversion and Maternal Time Investments in Preschool Children. SFB 882 Working Paper Series. Vol 36. Bielefeld: DFG Research Center (SFB) 882 From Heterogeneities to Inequalities; 2014.
Cardona, A., & Diewald, M. (2014). Opening the Black Box of Primary Effects: Relative Risk Aversion and Maternal Time Investments in Preschool Children (SFB 882 Working Paper Series, 36). Bielefeld: DFG Research Center (SFB) 882 From Heterogeneities to Inequalities.
Cardona, A., and Diewald, M. (2014). Opening the Black Box of Primary Effects: Relative Risk Aversion and Maternal Time Investments in Preschool Children. SFB 882 Working Paper Series, 36, Bielefeld: DFG Research Center (SFB) 882 From Heterogeneities to Inequalities.
Cardona, A., & Diewald, M., 2014. Opening the Black Box of Primary Effects: Relative Risk Aversion and Maternal Time Investments in Preschool Children, SFB 882 Working Paper Series, no.36, Bielefeld: DFG Research Center (SFB) 882 From Heterogeneities to Inequalities.
A. Cardona and M. Diewald, Opening the Black Box of Primary Effects: Relative Risk Aversion and Maternal Time Investments in Preschool Children, SFB 882 Working Paper Series, vol. 36, Bielefeld: DFG Research Center (SFB) 882 From Heterogeneities to Inequalities, 2014.
Cardona, A., Diewald, M.: Opening the Black Box of Primary Effects: Relative Risk Aversion and Maternal Time Investments in Preschool Children. SFB 882 Working Paper Series, 36. DFG Research Center (SFB) 882 From Heterogeneities to Inequalities, Bielefeld (2014).
Cardona, Andrés, and Diewald, Martin. Opening the Black Box of Primary Effects: Relative Risk Aversion and Maternal Time Investments in Preschool Children. Bielefeld: DFG Research Center (SFB) 882 From Heterogeneities to Inequalities, 2014. SFB 882 Working Paper Series. 36.
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