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Unintended Negative Consequences of Rewards for Student Attendance: Results from a Field Experiment in Indian Classrooms

Listed author(s):
  • Melody M. Chao

    ()

    (Department of Management, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology)

  • Rajeev Dehejia

    ()

    (Wagner School of Public Policy, New York University)

  • Anirban Mukhopadhyay

    (Department of Marketing, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology)

  • Sujata Visaria

    (Department of Economics, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
    Institute for Emerging Market Studies, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology)

In an experiment in non-formal schools in Indian slums, an incentive for attending a target number of school days increased average attendance when the incentive was in place, but had heterogeneous effects after it was removed. Among students with high baseline attendance, the post-incentive attendance returned to previous levels and test scores were unaffected. Among students with low baseline attendance, post-incentive attendance dropped even below previous levels, and test scores decreased. These students also reported lower interest in school material and lower expectations of themselves. Thus incentives might have unintended negative consequences in the long term for the very students they are most expected to help.

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File URL: http://iems.ust.hk/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/IEMSWP2015-22.pdf
File Function: First version, 2015
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Paper provided by HKUST Institute for Emerging Market Studies in its series HKUST IEMS Working Paper Series with number 2015-22.

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Length: 26 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2015
Date of revision: Apr 2015
Handle: RePEc:hku:wpaper:201522
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  1. Muralidharan, Karthik & Sundararaman, Venkatesh, 2011. "Teacher opinions on performance pay: Evidence from India," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 394-403, June.
  2. Roland G. Fryer, 2011. "Financial Incentives and Student Achievement: Evidence from Randomized Trials," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(4), pages 1755-1798.
  3. Joshua Angrist & Victor Lavy, 2009. "The Effects of High Stakes High School Achievement Awards: Evidence from a Randomized Trial," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1384-1414, September.
  4. Uri Gneezy & Stephan Meier & Pedro Rey-Biel, 2011. "When and Why Incentives (Don't) Work to Modify Behavior," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(4), pages 191-210, Fall.
  5. Michael Kremer & Edward Miguel & Rebecca Thornton, 2009. "Incentives to Learn," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(3), pages 437-456, August.
  6. Eric P. Bettinger, 2012. "Paying to Learn: The Effect of Financial Incentives on Elementary School Test Scores," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(3), pages 686-698, August.
  7. Karthik Muralidharan & Venkatesh Sundararaman, 2011. "Teacher Performance Pay: Experimental Evidence from India," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 119(1), pages 39-77.
  8. Andrei Bremzen & Elena Khokhlova & Anton Suvorov & Jeroen van de Ven, 2015. "Bad News: An Experimental Study on the Informational Effects Of Rewards," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 97(1), pages 55-70, March.
  9. Paredes, Ricardo & Ugarte, Gabriel, 2009. "Should Students Be Allowed to Miss?," MPRA Paper 15583, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  10. James Berry, 2015. "Child Control in Education Decisions: An Evaluation of Targeted Incentives to Learn in India," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 50(4), pages 1051-1080.
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