Behavioral economics (BE) complements existing psychological and classic economic theories by uncovering other mechanisms that interfere with parents’ participation and engagement. Money, time, and related economic or psych-social struggles can certainly interfere with intentions to engage with programs and be responsive parents, but so can attention, self-control and related aspects of our mind’s processing and cognitive capacity.

BE contends that the influence of these aspects of human decision-making on choices can be supported or hindered by the situations and circumstances – the context – in which decisions are made. Attention and self-control, identity formation, and social norms are hypothesized influences on the behavior of parents in the context of poverty.

We can test this. If maternal identity primed at the time of program receipt matters, then a positive affirmation test should show significant impact. If your decision to return homework depends on what other parents in your child’s classroom are doing, then knowing about other parents’ behavior should matter.

The BE theoretical framework makes certain predictions about parents’ behavior in the context of poverty. These hypotheses inform the design of BE interventions. The resulting differences in parents’ behavior can give us clues about which aspects of cognitive processing might be operating.
Brief primer on behavioral economics PDF