Inequality and Parenting in America

Faculty Sponsor(s): 
Fabrizio Zilibotti

Project Description(s):

Professor Zilibotti is recruiting one Fellow to work on the following projects:

Professor Fabrizio Zilibotti in Economics Department at Yale University is seeking a FULL-TIME research assistant for one year, beginning July 2021 (start date and duration of work periods are both negotiable).

The influences of parents and peers are key factors in children’s development that shape the future of the American society. In the recent book “Love. Money and Parenting: How Economics Explains the Way We Raise Our Kids,” published by Princeton University Press in February 2019 (paperback edition 2020) and translated in several languages. The book discusses how the trend of growing inequality has changed the way parents interact with their children in the United States and around the world as well as the consequences on the future society. See

The objective of the research is to examine the connections between parenting on the one hand and neighborhoods and peers on the other hand, using data and economic models of parenting decisions. We use data from the Add Health, PSID-CDS, and ACS data sets to empirically test the theoretical predictions and to estimate structural models that can be used for policy analysis. Over a longer time horizon, we also plan to collect new data and run surveys focusing on the effect of social media. Model simulations will also be used to assess the implications of alternative policy scenarios for the long-run evolution of economic inequality, social mobility, and residential segregation.

The project comprises two subprojects on these issues, one focusing on the role of peers, and the other and on the role of neighborhoods.  

The first subproject focuses on peer selection among adolescents.  Once children pass into adolescence, the direct influence of parents on their children tends to wane, whereas influences from peers become more important. However, parents can still influence their children at this stage runs through their impact on the peer selection of their children. In principle, this influence may take many forms, from choosing neighborhoods and schools to encouraging children at an earlier stage to adopt activities and hobbies that later on, in the parents’ mind, are associated with a favorable peer group. 

We first collect evidence on how parents’ incentive to intervene in children’s peer selection hinges on the quality of the pool from which children choose friends. The next stage will be the estimation of a structural model. We will then to run counterfactual simulations about policy intervention such as desegregation busing that move children from schools in poorer and more problematic neighborhood to schools in wealthier neighborhood. Our approach allows us to evaluate the response of families to such interventions taking general equilibrium effects into consideration.

In the second subproject, we study the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic in the light of the results in the first study. COVID-19 has a number of implications. First, school closure reduces the learning potential. Second, parents must step-in as instructors in support of children during the time in which schools are partially or totally closed. The ability for parents to do so hinges on their ability of working from home. This varies across occupation and income levels, increasing the disadvantage of less wealthy families. Finally, schools operate as an equalizing factor by allowing mixing of children from different socio-economic background. We conjecture that COVID will induce more socio-economic segregation coming through peer effects. This will also have effects on parenting. Moreover, these effects may persist after school activity is resumed, especially, if poor children suffer more severe consequences in both cognitive learning and behavior.

Requisite Skills and Qualifications:

Applications are invited from students with a strong background in economics and statistics. Skills and interest in data collection and econometric analysis are important. Knowledge of Stata and the ability to merge datasets are essential skills (please dwell on this in the application). Other quantitative skills (e.g., programming skills) are appreciated but are not essential. We expect the RA to work in a team with younger students and to help coordinate their work.

Special Application Instructions:


Sponsor Name: