Disadvantage and Economic Decision Making in Children - PROJECT FILLED

Worksite Location
CCE Cortland County
Project Dates
Mid June (following public schools summer closings)
Faculty Sponsor
Gary Evans, Department of Design and Environmental Analysis; David Just, Dyson School
Field Mentors/Supervisors
David Rutherford, Executive Director, CCE Cortland County
Project Summary and Intended Outcomes

Lower income adults on average are not as good at estimating the relative advantage of a future reward versus an immediate reward. A critical question about this fact is why?  Many economists argue that bad economic decision making leads to poverty; whereas many psychologists, and a few economists, challenge this notion, arguing that stress accompanying poverty might lead to bad economic decision making. Of course both views might be correct to some extent. We are interested in examining the origins of bias in economic decision making and whether changes in relative economic status might alter decision making. Thus we will recruit a sample of 80 4th and 5th grade children, half who are eligible for government lunch subsidy and half who are not.  In addition, half of these children will also play an abbreviated Monopoly Game where one person (randomly) will be given half the funds at the onset of the game. This simulation of relative deprivation has proven effective in altering adult’s decision making.   For all children, whether in the simulated game or not, we will measure preferences for binary choices between varying amounts of money immediately compared to a larger amount in 1, 3, 7, or 14 days.  This research is highly relevant to learning about financial decision making and potentially useful in examining how discounting behavior develops in children.    We would also like to work with 4-H and other programs to design some early education programs for responsible decision making. 

Roles and Responsibilities

The intern would be involved in every facet of this project from recruiting participants, collecting and analyzing data, drafting a summary report, and working with CCE supervisor to inform consumer education curricula on delayed discounting and its relevance to family economic decision making.   Time permitting we will likely also design and pilot test a second followup study focused on underlying mechanisms (e.g. stress, executive functioning; future time perspective) to account for expected effects in initial study. 

Qualifications and Previous Coursework

Ideally the student would have an introductory course in developmental psychology as well as in micro economics. We assume the student would have to be either in Human Ecology or CALS but are open to your advice since this is an interdisciplinary, cross-college collaboration between a child psychologist (Evans) and an economist (Just).   

Benefits and Skills

1. Research experience both at the conceptualizing stage and in actual field work 2. Analyzing and interpreting data 3. Work with faculty and CCE professionals on translation of research into practice  4. Pilot testing of follow up study, dependent upon initial study results