The behavioralist goes to school: leveraging behavioral economics to improve educational performance


Levitt, Steven D. ; List, John A. ; Neckermann, Susanne ; Sadoff, Sally


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URL: https://ub-madoc.bib.uni-mannheim.de/32335
URN: urn:nbn:de:bsz:180-madoc-323358
Document Type: Working paper
Year of publication: 2012
The title of a journal, publication series: ZEW Discussion Papers
Volume: 12-038
Place of publication: Mannheim
Publication language: English
Institution: Sonstige Einrichtungen > ZEW - Leibniz-Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung
MADOC publication series: Veröffentlichungen des ZEW (Leibniz-Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung) > ZEW Discussion Papers
Subject: 330 Economics
Abstract: Decades of research on behavioral economics have established the importance of factors that are typically absent from the standard economic framework: reference dependent preferences, hyperbolic preferences, and the value placed on non-financial rewards. To date, these insights have had little impact on the way the educational system operates. Through a series of field experiments involving thousands of primary and secondary school students, we demonstrate the power of behavioral economics to in uence educational performance. Several insights emerge. First, we find that incentives framed as losses have more robust effects than comparable incentives framed as gains. Second, we find that non-financial incentives are considerably more cost-effective than financial incentives for younger students, but were not effective with older stu- dents. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, consistent with hyperbolic discounting, all motivating power of the incentives vanishes when rewards are handed out with a delay. Since the rewards to educational investment virtually always come with a delay, our results suggest that the current set of incentives may lead to underinvestment. For policymakers, our findings imply that in the absence of immediate incentives, many students put forth low effort on standardized tests, which may create biases in measures of student ability, teacher value added, school quality, and achievement gaps.

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Levitt, Steven D. ; List, John A. ; Neckermann, Susanne ; Sadoff, Sally (2012) The behavioralist goes to school: leveraging behavioral economics to improve educational performance. Open Access ZEW Discussion Papers Mannheim 12-038 [Working paper]
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