The Effect of Social Programs and Exposure to Professionals on the Educational Aspirations of the Poor



Economics of Education Review, 5 ed., vol. 31, pp. 778-798, October (4th Quarter/Autumn) 2012



Investment in human capital is an important tool for reducing poverty. However, the poor may lack the capacity to aspire, which often results in underinvestment in their children's education. This paper studies the effect of a social program on the educational aspirations poor parents have for their children, and explores the role of exposure to educated professionals as a possible channel for increasing these aspirations. First, using differences-in-differences, we show that the Mexican antipoverty program PROGRESA raises the educational aspirations of beneficiary parents for their children of a third of a school year. Then, exploiting PROGRESA's mandated differential exposure to professionals, using triple differences, we find evidence suggesting that educational aspirations for children from high-exposure households are almost half of a school year higher six months after the start of the program. Finally, we show that there is a positive correlation between parental aspirations and children's educational attainment.

Silvia Prina