Pilot Study Finds Encouraging Results to Help Close the Word Gap

The Behavioral Insights and Parenting Lab, launched earlier this year by Harris School of Public Policy Profs. Ariel Kalil and Susan Mayer, has garnered federal attention. The Office of Science and Technology Policy invited Kalil and Mayer to the White House on Thurs., Oct. 16, 2014, to discuss Parents and Children Together (PACT), the BIP Lab's first study, at a workshop on bridging the word gap. PACT aims to promote parent-child book reading using tools drawn from behavioral economics. Parents in the treatment group set goals for the amount of time they will spend reading books, receive feedback on their actual time use and recognition for meeting their goals, and receive daily text message reminders to read with their children. The study is being conducted at Head Start sites in the City of Chicago. 

The White House meeting convened leaders from academia, non-profit organizations, philanthropy, Federal agencies, foundations, and the private sector to explore evidence-based solutions and strategies designed to bridge the early language gap. In a panel on "Innovative Interventions to Bridge the Word Gap," Kalil presented pilot findings from the PACT study suggesting substantial effects of the intervention. "We were thrilled to see such promising results from our pilot experiment," said Kalil, "we cannot wait for the data on all 500 of our study families to start rolling in." At the BIP Lab, a team of more than 25 undergraduate, MPP, and PhD students are involved in implementing the study, analyzing the data, and helping Kalil and Mayer plan follow-up studies.