nep-neu New Economics Papers
on Neuroeconomics
Issue of 2022‒09‒26
three papers chosen by

  1. Social protection and foundational cognitive skills during adolescence: evidence from a large Public Works Programme By Richard Freund; Marta Favara; Catherine Porter; Jere Behrman
  2. Occupational sorting on genes By Thomas Buser; Rafael Ahlskog; Magnus Johannesson; Sven Oskarsson
  3. Foetal Exposure to Air Pollution and Students Cognitive Performance : Evidence from Agricultural Fires in Brazil By Carneiro, Juliana; Cole, Matthew A.; Strobl, Eric

  1. By: Richard Freund (University of Oxford); Marta Favara (University of Oxford); Catherine Porter (Lancaster University, University of Oxford); Jere Behrman (University of Pennsylvania)
    Abstract: Many low- and middle-income countries have introduced Public Works Programmes (PWPs) to fight poverty. PWPs provide temporary cash-for-work opportunities to boost poor households’ incomes and to provide better infrastructure to local communities. While PWPs do not target children directly, the increased demand for adult labour may affect children’s development through increasing households’ incomes and changing household members’ time uses. This paper expands on a multidimensional literature showing the relationship between early life circumstances and learning outcomes and provides the first evidence that children from families who benefit from PWPs show increased foundational cognitive skills (FCS). We focus on four child FCS: inhibitory control, working memory, long-term memory, and implicit learning. Our results, based on unique tablet-based data collected as part of a 20-year longitudinal survey, show positive associations of family participation in the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) in Ethiopia during childhood on long-term memory and implicit learning, with weaker evidence for working memory. These associations appear to be strongest for children whose households were still PSNP participants in the year of data collection. We find suggestive evidence that, the association with implicit learning may be operating through children’s time reallocation away from unpaid labour responsibilities, while the association with long-term memory may be due to the programme’s success in remediating nutritional deficits caused by early life rainfall shocks. Our results suggest that policy interventions such as PWPs may be able to mitigate the effects of early poverty on cognitive skills formation and thereby improve children’s potential future outcomes.
    Keywords: foundational cognitive skills; Ethiopia; public works programmes; PSNP; skills development
    JEL: J24 I2 I1
    Date: 2022–09–09
  2. By: Thomas Buser (University of Amsterdam); Rafael Ahlskog (Uppsala University); Magnus Johannesson (tockholm School of Economics); Sven Oskarsson (Uppsala University)
    Abstract: We use a novel approach to explore how people sort into different careers based on their personality skills. We link genetic data from individuals in the Swedish Twin Registry to government register data, making use of new polygenic indices that capture the genetic predispositions of individuals towards a range of relevant cognitive skills, personality traits, and economic preferences. We first present a detailed mapping of these genetic tendencies by occupation and study major. We show that – conditional on their socio-economic background – people who sort into different study majors and occupations differ significantly in their genetic predispositions. We then take advantage of random genetic variation between siblings to show that this sorting is at least partially due to a causal effect of genetic tendencies on career choices. Our results shed new light on the determinants of some of the most impactful decisions people must make in their lives.
    Keywords: personality traits, cognitive skills, behavioral genetics, labor markets, education
    JEL: D91 J24
    Date: 2022–09–07
  3. By: Carneiro, Juliana (University of Warwick,); Cole, Matthew A. (University of Birmingham,); Strobl, Eric (University of Bern)
    Abstract: This paper examines the impact of foetal exposure to air pollution from agricultural fires on Brazilian students cognitive performance later in life. We rely on comparisons across children who were upwind and downwind of the fires while in utero to address concerns around sorting and temporary income shocks. Our findings show that agricultural fires increase P M2.5, resulting in significant negative effects on pupils’ scores in Portuguese and Maths in the 5th grade through prenatal exposure. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that a 1% reduction in P M2.5 from agricultural burning has the potential to increase later life wages by 2.6%.
    Keywords: Agricultural fires ; air pollution ; foetal exposure ; cognitive performance

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