Working Paper

Order matters : eliciting maternal beliefs on educational choices


Subjective expectation data on education has been increasingly used by social scientists to better understand current investments in human capital. Despite its recognised value by scholars, there is little evidence about how the elicitation of such data might be sensitive to questionnaire design. Using a 2×2 between-subjects experimental design, we analyse how sensitive the elicitation of subjective expectation data on educational outcome is to question order. Our design allows us to explore whether collecting data on parental education before the elicitation of parental beliefs on their children’s educational outcomes anchors the elicitation of the latter; and whether parental expectations on their older offsprings anchors their expectations on their younger children. We find that mothers (main respondents) who have been exposed to the non-anchored treatment results in more optimistic parental expectations. When splitting our sample into households with low and high educated mothers, we observe that low educated mothers are more susceptible to anchoring effects. Using a conservative projection of observed years of schooling of young adults on young cohorts, we find that the double-anchored beliefs better predicts this projection than the rest of the treatments. Our findings inform to what extent the collection of subjective expectations data is subject to anchoring and which type of populations might be more sensitive to such phenomenon.

Keywords: anchoring, expectations on education, order effects, survey design,