Institutional Trust and the Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital

The economics literature studying the intergenerational transmission of human capital has traditionally found that interventions that increase the educational attainment of onegeneration have additional positive effects on subsequent generations (Currie and Moretti, 2003; Black, Devereux, and Salvanes, 2005; Oreopoulos, Page, and Stevens, 2006; Hertz,Jayasundera, Piraino, Selcuk, Smith, and Verashchagina, 2007; Maurin and McNally, 2008; Chevalier, Denny, and McMahon, 2009). However, educational policy interventions for Indigenous populations in Canada that increased the educational attainment of one generation may have lowered the educational attainment of the next. From approximately 1876 until the mid 1990s, the Canadian government, in collaboration with Christian churches, operated a network of residential schools for Indigenous children. At the expense of their culture,Indigenous peoples who attended these schools have higher educational attainment and employment outcomes, on average, compared to Indigenous peoples who did not attend theschools (Feir, 2016b); however, the children of residential school survivors have lower levelof average educational attainment compared to Indigenous children whose parents did not attend a residential school. Given the vast literature finding a positive correlation between parents and children’s educational attainment in other contexts, this finding presents a puzzle.One theory for the persistence of low education rates among Indigenous students in Canada is that the residential schooling system fostered an environment of distrust for educational institutions that remains even after several generations (Bougie and Sen´ecal, 2010 Bombay et al., 2014; Feir, 2016a). If so, this suggests that trust in educational institutions may be an important component of the intergenerational link between the education of parents and children. The first purpose of this project is to further understand the causal mechanisms underlying the negative correlation between parental residential schooling and the educational attainment of subsequent generations. The second purpose of this project is to draw on recent evidence from neuroscience, psychology, and economics, to develop and locally adapt interventions based on imagery and cognitive behavioral therapy to assist students who have been affected by their parents’ experiences at residential school to re-envision their relationship with education.

RFP Cycle:
SPRI Off Cycle RFP [2020]
  • Project development grant