Behavioural Education Economics

My academic paper on the ‘Behavioural Education Economics’ is now up on the web.  This will be a chapter in a forthcoming handbook on Behavioural Economics, due out Sep 2016.

ABSTRACT    The purpose of ‘Behavioural education economics’ is to understand the psychological factors influencing student performance and educational choices. One of the key insights of behavioural education economics is that educational decision making is characterised by choices which are usually not repeated and rely heavily on heuristics to solve complex choices in the absence of prior learning. At the heart of behavioural education economics is an understanding that academic outcomes are malleable. That investment decisions associated with education are primarily driven by non-cognitive behaviours and cognitive biases that affect participation in education and subsequently motivations to commit resources to these investments and maintain these choices over time. The focus of this paper will be on three key non-cognitive behaviours associated with choices in education that impact the quality of investments in education: self-control, self-efficacy and identity.

Leaver, S. 2016. Behavioural education economics. Routledge handbook of behavioral economics, ed. R. Frantz, S.-H. Chen, K. Dopfer, F. Heukelom, and S. Mousavi, 379–391.

An ungated version of the paper can be accessed here:

Intergenerational discounting & parental investment in education: Evolutionary basis for a zero discount rate heuristic

I will be presenting at the ‘Cooperation and Conflict in the Family’ conference – UNSW in Sydney, Australia from February 2-5 2014. This is a multidisciplinary conference drawing together evolutionary economics, sociology & anthropology.

ABSTRACT This paper discusses the absence of intertemporal discounting in human parent decision making behaviour associated with choices and investments in their children’s education. This behaviour is inconsistent with standard rational choice theory where parents should maximise the present value of the utility of their consumption choices over time. Nor is it consistent with behavioural economics’ expectation that individuals discount consumption choices across time periods hyperbolically. Parents applying a zero discount rate to the expected future returns from investments in their children’s education is however consistent with evolutionary theory. We propose that the proximate cause of this behaviour is a meta-heuristic, intergenerational temporal empathy, which is constructed from a core set of cognitive biases and heuristics so as to cancel out hyperbolic discounting behaviour normally associated with non-offspring investment related consumption across time periods. The ultimate cause of this meta-heuristic is to eliminate the propensity of hyperbolic discounting behaviour to under-invest in offspring development, thereby ensuring that inclusive fitness is maximised. Intergenerational temporal empathy also has characteristics of a positive feedback mechanism ensuring that beneficial educational strategies are propagated forward and may help explain divergent outcomes for low socio-economic groups where poor educational investment decisions tend to be reinforced across generations.

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