Working Papers

Unpacking Intergenerational (Im-)mobility: Child vs. Parent Career Preferences (Job Market Paper)

Abstract: Through which channels do parents shape their children's (post-secondary) educational choices? How important are students' own preferences in comparison to their adjustment to parents' preferences? I design a field experiment with 1,200 students and 800 parents in Germany to test whether the public nature of decisions causes students to adjust their choices to parents. Experimentally varying whether students' incentivized college aspirations are observable by parents causes an increased share of students with at least one college-educated parent to state an aspiration to attend college and more students to aspire to high earning fields. As a result, the socio-economic gap in college aspirations doubles to 27 percentage points and also widens for aspirations to enroll in a high earning major at university. Estimating a model where career tracks are chosen under uncertainty suggests that the socio-economic gap in college aspirations is in almost equal terms due to this adjustment to parents and differences in students' beliefs that are strongly correlated with their parents' beliefs. This highlights two key mechanisms through which parents' career preferences and beliefs continue to contribute to intergenerational immobility when their children are old enough to make their own choices.

Presented at: Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics, Graduate Students in Economics of Education Zoom Seminars (GEEZ), The 34th Annual Conference of the European Society for Population Economics in Barcelona (ESPE), ifo Conference on Genes, Social Mobility, and Inequalities across the Life-Course, Young Economist Symposium 2021 (YES), Zeuthen Workshop on Inequality and Public Policy, European Association of Labour Economists Virtual Conference Padua 2021 (EALE), 6th IZA Workshop: The Economics of Education, UC Berkeley BEHL Lunch, UC Berkeley Psychology & Economics Seminar [scheduled]

Media Coverage: Teach Economy

Motivated Memory and the Intergenerational Transmission of Fertility Preferences

Abstract: How do people form their beliefs about long-term processes in life that they later pass on to the next generation? This paper studies the long-term memory of Kenyan women and men when it comes to their past reproductive desires 10 years ago and the intergenerational transmission of their preferences to the next generation. The study relies on survey experiments around respondents' recall behavior in a large, ongoing survey that makes use of past information about respondents' desired number of children from a survey when respondents were in their early 20s. Respondents' memory is inaccurate and biased, at least partly so for motivated reasons. Those who have more children than they initially desired are likely not to remember so and to avoid information about their past desires -- what is more, those who are not aware of their excess fertility would also advice the next generation to have more children than those with accurate memory. This combination of motivated memory and intergenerational transmission has the potential to contribute to cultural persistence.

Presented at: UC Berkeley Development Lunch, Pacific Conference for Development Economics 2021 (PacDev), Psychology and Economics of Poverty (PEP) Convening, 25th Annual Society for Institutional and Organizational Economics (SIOE)

The Illusion of Stable Fertility Preferences (submitted) (with Joan Hamory, Jennifer Johnson-Hanks and Edward Miguel)

Abstract: Fertility intentions have long played a key role in models of fertility differentials and change. We examine the stability of preferences over time using rich panel data from Kenya on fertility intentions, realizations, expectations, and recall of intentions in three waves over nine years. We find that although desired fertility is quite unstable, most people perceive their desires to be stable. Under hypothetical future scenarios, few expect their desired fertility to increase over time, but in fact increases in fertility intentions are common. Moreover, when asked to recall past intentions, most respondents report previously wanting exactly as many children as they desire today. These patterns of bias are consistent with the emerging view that fertility intentions are contextual, emotionally laden, and structured by identity.

Presented at: UC Berkeley Development Lunch, Pacific Conference for Development Economics 2018 (PacDev), Oxford Center for the Study of African Economies Conference 2018 (CSAE)

Media Coverage: Marginal Revolution

Work in Progress

The Economic Value of Identity (with Eugen Dimant, Kwabena Donkor, Lorenz Götte, Michael Kurschilgen)