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Relative Wealth Salience and Adolescent Aspirations in Colombia

Health & Psychology Colombia

Credit: Michael Barón on Unsplash

Study Context

Duquennois (2022) finds that disadvantaged students perform differentially worse on exams where monetary themed questions are salient and that this financial salience affects test taking through an attention capture mechanism. Other studies also document ways in which poverty captures attention and affects behavior including Mani et al. (2013) and Kaur et al. (2021). This project seeks to understand how poverty, and specifically the salience of poverty, affects the aspirations and friendship networks of young adults using a unique Colombian system of indexing wealth. This project adds to the psychology of poverty literature on the relationship between financial salience and behavior by examining the effects of well-known relative wealth scores on aspirations and friendship networks.

Study Design

In Colombia, SISBEN (El Sistema de Identificación y Clasificación de Potenciales Beneficiarios para Programas Sociales) scores are given to citizens based on household surveys about living conditions and income. These scores are used by the national government to target social policy programs to those who need it most. The research team hypothesizes that knowing the relative wealth level of one’s family might make poorer adolescents more likely to have lower aspirations for themselves and to befriend adolescents with similar SISBEN scores. The researchers plan to test these hypotheses by matching administrative data on SISBEN scores with primary data collected on adolescent aspirations and friendship networks. The research team will employ a regression discontinuity design to see if adolescents on the border of different SISBEN score classifications are discontinuously more likely to be friends with those in the same SISBEN score classification or are discontinuously more likely to have lower aspirations for themselves.

Results and Policy Lessons

Results forthcoming.

  • Profamilia

2022 — ongoing

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