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Looking for status appeal? Act interested in your child’s education

Salvador Contreras (Department of Economics and Finance, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, Texas, USA)

International Journal of Social Economics

ISSN: 0306-8293

Article publication date: 6 March 2017




The purpose of this paper is to study how positional concerns influence a parent’s time investment decisions of her/his child.


The author presents a theoretical and empirical analysis of household positional and non-positional time investment choices in the education of her/his child.


The author shows that a parent who is mindful of her/his relative position in the income distribution will use her/his time investment choices to influence her/his perceived status. The theoretical model predicts that visible time investment increases as members of her/his reference group move up in rank. The author shows that moving down in rank lowers utility. The author employs National Education Longitudinal Studies (1988) data set to test the model prediction and shows that visible time invested in child’s education is explained by place on the income distribution.


The author extends the positional literature to account for parent time investment in her/his child’s education. The work suggests that time investment in one’s child’s education is based on more than altruistic preferences and resources. It leaves open the possibility that perceived social standing influences a household’s time investment in their child’s education. From a policy perspective, the findings provide a new way to think about drivers of parental involvement.



Contreras, S. (2017), "Looking for status appeal? Act interested in your child’s education", International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 44 No. 3, pp. 377-399.



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