From assets to school outcomes: how finances shape children's perceived possibilities and intentions

Psychol Sci. 2009 Apr;20(4):414-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02309.x. Epub 2009 Mar 9.


People do not always take action to attain their desired possible selves--after all, whether consciously or nonconsciously, taking current action makes sense if there is an open path toward attaining the desired self, but not if paths are closed. Following this logic, children from families with fewer assets may lower their expectations for school success and plan to engage in less effort in school. To test this hypothesis, we examined the impact of experimentally manipulating mind-set about college as either "closed" (expensive) or "open" (can be paid for with need-based financial aid) among low-income early adolescents. Adolescents assigned to an open-path condition expected higher grades than those assigned to a closed-path condition (Study 1, n= 48, predominantly Hispanic and Latino seventh graders) and planned to spend more time on homework than those assigned to a no-prime control condition (Study 2, n= 48, predominantly African American seventh graders).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Male
  • Schools*
  • Socioeconomic Factors