MIP network member Ariel Kalil recently met with HCEO to discuss her work studying economic conditions, parenting, and child development.
"I study parent child interactions, primarily in low-income contexts," she says. "I'm very interested in differences between children in economically-disadvanted circumstances and their higher-income peers, and why is it that parents in those two broad groups seem to interact differently with their kids, in a way that may be responsible for differences in outcomes in cognition and emotional adjustment and long-run human capital."
Kalil is the Co-Director of the Behavioral Insights and Parenting Lab at the Harris School of Public Policy. She says that her lab differs from other developmental psychology labs as it looks at parent-child interactions through the lens of decision-making.
"Instead of thinking of the way parents act as a style, or a particular kind of person that developmental psychology usually characterizes parenting as, we’re thinking of parent-child interaction as quite simply: how do parents make decisions on a day-by-day or week-by-week or year-by-year basis, in the service of their kids development," she says.
This lens allows her lab to better understand what influences decision-making, whether it's cognitive bias, expected returns, or other variables. She notes that this lens opens up new avenues for interventions that can hopefully help parents align their aspirations with the behavior.
Kalil also notes that working at the University of Chicago, where she has spent the majority of career, is full of opportunities for reinvention as a scientist. "There are so many interesting questions being asked by the faculty on this campus," she says.
Kalil is a Professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy