A New Test of Borrowing Constraints for Education

TitleA New Test of Borrowing Constraints for Education
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsBrown, M, Scholz, JKarl, Seshadri, A
Series TitleNBER Working Paper
Document Number14879
InstitutionNational Bureau of Economic Research
CityCambridge, MA
KeywordsAdult children

We discuss a simple model of intergenerational transfers with one-sided altruism: parents care about their child but the child does not reciprocate. Parents and children make investments in the child s education, investments for other purposes, and parents can transfer cash to their child. We show that for an identifiable set of parent-child pairs, parents will rationally under-invest in their child s education. For these parent-child pairs, additional financial aid will increase educational attainment. The model highlights an important feature of higher education finance, the expected family contribution (EFC) that is based on income, assets, and other factors. The EFC is neither legally guaranteed nor universally offered: Our model identifies the set of families that are disproportionately likely to not provide their full EFC. Using a common proxy for financial aid, we show, using of data from the Health and Retirement Study, that financial aid increases the educational attainment of children whose families are disproportionately likely to under-invest in education. Financial aid has no effect on the educational attainment of children in other families. The theory and empirical evidence identifies a set of children who face quantitatively important borrowing constraints for higher education.

Endnote Keywords

Inter Vivos Transfers/Altruism/parent-Child Relations

Endnote ID


Citation Key5763