Valuing Children: Parents’ Perceptions, Spending Priorities and Children’s Capabilities

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review


This paper provides a composite analysis of children’s academic development grounded on the capability approach. The study utilises a panel dataset comprising 8,422 Chinese children and adolescents aged 6 to 16, observed between 2012 and 2018. It introduces a series of innovative indicators, including a parent advantage index to capture how parents influence their children and a ranking indicator for spending priorities to reify the value of children’s education that families have reasoned. To address unobserved heterogeneity, we adopted fixed-effects models, multilevel modelling, and heteroskedasticity-based instrumental variables. Our primary results show that a 1% increase in the parent advantage index yields an increase of 13.85% to 21.31% in children’s academic development, and the biggest leap in prioritising education-relevant spending increases the child outcomes by 2.88% to 6.57%. By highlighting the influence of parents’ beings and doings, particularly the value they assign to education, this research contributes to the existing literature on child development, which often focuses predominantly on material dimensions. In sum, it expands the frontiers of the capability approach and related research on parental practices. It offers novel insights into how policies can be reinforced to equalise educational opportunities and to boost human capital.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Development Studies
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Capability approach
  • child academic development
  • China
  • household spending
  • parent advantages
  • prioritisation


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