Doepke

22 Feb 19
Institute for Policy Studies

China and the United States — two nations notorious for their helicopter parenting — just happen to sport two of the world’s deepest economic divides. Coincidence?

21 Feb 19
WGN Radio - 720 AM

In his 1969 book Between Parent and Teenager, Dr. Haim Ginott talked to teenagers who said their parents hovered over them like helicopters. Since then the term “helicopter parent” has focused on overprotective parents who failed to let their children grow for fear of them being hurt. Now a new book suggests “helicoptering” has some merits. uh-PARENT-ly cohosts Tracy Weiner and Anne Johnsos talk to economist Matthias Doepke of Northwestern University, who co-authored with Fabrizio Zilibotti of Yale University, the new book, Love, Money and Parenting: How Economics Explains the Way We Raise Our Kids.

14 Feb 19
Quartz
The general consensus on helicopter parenting is that it is bad. It hurts kids because they never learn to do anything for themselves. It stresses out parents, who now spend way more time with their kids than they did in the 1970s—while simultaneously working more, too. And older generations definitely disapprove: They let kids walk to school on their own, play by themselves, and get bored, and everything turned out fine. So why do so many seemingly sane people get over-involved with their kids? The answer is not that parents have collectively come unhinged, according to the new book Love, Money and Parenting: How Economics Explains the Way We Raise Our Kids. Rather, parents today are rational economic actors responding to an increasingly unhinged environment. Economists Matthias Doepke of Northwestern University and Fabrizio Zilibotti of Yale University explain that as society has become more unequal, and the stakes for higher education have skyrocketed, middle-class and upper-class parents have responded naturally: By helping with homework, signing kids up for every imaginable activity, reading War and Peace to their toddlers, and making sure their kids know how to code (of course). “Being part of the upper tier is more important now,” said Zilibotti. “It moves people’s decisions.” The pair look at how inequality and parenting styles around the world have evolved over time. This allows them to unpack why parenting seems so different in some places—why, for example, the Danes let their kids play with axes, while Americans won’t even let kids walk to school until they are 11. Their most important finding? “Across countries, the intensity of parenting lines up very closely with economic inequality,” said Doepke. Parents get more intense as a country gets more unequal over time, and grow more permissive if the country gets more equal. “If everyone is more or less the same, in a way, there’s more room to relax and let the kids just enjoy themselves and be less frantic about the parenting,” Doepke said. Why pushy parenting works The authors categorize parents according to three types: authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. Authoritarian parents value obedience and demand control, while permissive parents value imagination, independence, and freedom, and generally let kids do as they see fit. Authoritative parents, meanwhile, aim to influence kids’ choices, but do so through reasoning and shaping values. They value hard work. (Then there are neglectful or uninvolved parents, who are just that.) Developmental psychologists use parenting categories to figure out which styles favor better academic and personal outcomes. Doepke and Zilibotti use these types to try and understand why parents make the choices they do, and why those choices look so different between countries and generations. For example, through some complex statistical analysis, they show that according to one US data set, when controlling for mothers’ level of education, kids of authoritative moms have a higher probability of getting a college degree (34%) than kids of permissive ones (30%) or authoritarian (24%) Different data tell a similar story, this time with test scores. The pair analyzed data from 2012 and 2015 from the Programme for International Assessment (PISA), a test given every three years to 15-year-olds all over the world, as well as questionnaire information collected by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development(OECD) on parenting and well-being in 11 countries. They found children with “intensive” parents had higher test results compared to their peers in the same country with different parenting styles, and that this was true even for children whose parents had similar levels of education. (Rather than categorizing parents as “authoritative” and the like, they had to use different terms in order to fit the OECD data.) The pattern held in nine of 11 countries (Germany and Belgium were the exceptions). The authors of the book can’t prove causality—the study was not a random control trial—but rather, an association. Their message is clear: Contrary to popular stereotypes, those who succumb to the lure of helicopter parenting aren’t hysterical or illogical. Nor are Swedes, whose children have more freedom, better people; they simply live in more equal societies, which means parents can be more confident that their kids will have opportunities regardless of how much they push. It is easier to get into university in Sweden than it is in the US, for example. The differences between universities’ standings is not too big, and the consequences for not attending university are not as great as the US, where the gaps can be huge. So Swedes sit in cafes and sip coffee while their toddlers play unattended. Zilibotti told a story about a Swedish kid who told a group of adults to “shut up” because he was watching tv, and the parents and guests moved rooms. (Brits are no doubt reading this with horror.) But in countries like the US and the UK, inequality since the 1980s has risen dramatically. In response, parents have decided to spend more time with children. In 2005, Dutch mothers spent four hours a week more on child care than in 1975; Dutch fathers spent three more. In the US, where inequality has risen faster, both mothers and fathers were each spending six hours more a week with their kids than parents did in 1975. This development is made more intense by the fact that family size continues to shrink in the US, so each child is getting more attention. The consequences of the economists’ conclusions are worrisome. Even though helicopter parents may be acting rationally, the collective impact of the wealthy frantically working to ensure their kids stay ahead only exacerbates inequality, further entrenching segregation of opportunity for children. “Parenting has become very unequal,” said Doepke. “It’s one of the big social problems we have because we have high inequality now, and if kids don’t get the same starting conditions, it’s just going to get worse and worse in the future.” Wisely, their prescription is not to fix the helicopter parents, but the institutions that are perpetuating inequality. They recommend that governments offer high-quality affordable or free child care to give less advantaged children better chances, and instate apprenticeships and vocational training programs that will give kids who don’t go to to college more professional opportunities. They also encourage governments to consider that parents and students respond to the organization of school systems, including high-stakes tests. If there is a high-stakes test, parents will help kids to prepare and kids will inevitably end up more stressed out because of this. Doepke, a parent himself, admits to a sentiment that will resonate with many reluctant helicopter types: That we sometimes as if feel we don’t have much choice. Reflecting on his own childhood, Doepke said, “We had lots of freedom. Our parents gave us food and shelter, but we had a lot of free time. I expected to be the same, but I find myself in America, and a lot more helicopter than free range.” Welcome to the club.
10 Feb 19
The Echo Chamber International

If you want to raise an educated achiever, be a pushy, helicopter parent, writes Pamela Druckerman in the New York Times. She cites a new book by economists Matthias Doepke and Fabrizio Zilbotti, Love, Money and Parenting. As inequality increased in the ’80s, parents began investing more time and energy to make sure their kids would […]

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Abycats' Thoughts

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03 Feb 19

Parents everywhere want their children to be happy and do well. Yet how parents seek to achieve this ambition varies enormously. For instance, American and Chinese parents are increasingly authoritative and authoritarian, whereas Scandinavian parents tend to be more permissive. Why? Love, Money, and Parenting investigates how economic forces and growing inequality shape how parents raise their […]

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