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The Remarkable Unresponsiveness of College Students to Nudging and What We Can Learn from It

Author

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  • Oreopoulos, Philip

    () (University of Toronto)

  • Petronijevic, Uros

    () (York University, Canada)

Abstract

We present results from a five-year effort to design promising online and text-message interventions to improve college achievement through several distinct channels. From a sample of nearly 25,000 students across three different campuses, we find some improvement from coaching-based interventions on mental health and study time, but none of the interventions we evaluate significantly influences academic outcomes (even for those students more at risk of dropping out). We interpret the results with our survey data and a model of student effort. Students study about five to eight hours fewer each week than they plan to, though our interventions do not alter this tendency. The coaching interventions make some students realize that more effort is needed to attain good grades but, rather than working harder, they settle by adjusting grade expectations downwards. Our study time impacts are not large enough for translating into significant academic benefits. More comprehensive but expensive programs appear more promising for helping college students outside the classroom.

Suggested Citation

  • Oreopoulos, Philip & Petronijevic, Uros, 2019. "The Remarkable Unresponsiveness of College Students to Nudging and What We Can Learn from It," IZA Discussion Papers 12460, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp12460
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Daron Acemoglu & David Autor, 2012. "What Does Human Capital Do? A Review of Goldin and Katz's The Race between Education and Technology," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(2), pages 426-463, June.
    2. Steffen Andersen & Glenn W. Harrison & Morten I. Lau & E. Elisabet Rutström, 2008. "Eliciting Risk and Time Preferences," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(3), pages 583-618, May.
    3. Castleman, Benjamin L. & Page, Lindsay C., 2015. "Summer nudging: Can personalized text messages and peer mentor outreach increase college going among low-income high school graduates?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 144-160.
    4. Philip Oreopoulos & Uros Petronijevic, 2018. "Student Coaching: How Far Can Technology Go?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 53(2), pages 299-329.
    5. Beattie, Graham & Laliberté, Jean-William P. & Michaud-Leclerc, Catherine & Oreopoulos, Philip, 2019. "What sets college thrivers and divers apart? A contrast in study habits, attitudes, and mental health," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 178(C), pages 50-53.
    6. Ben Ost & Weixiang Pan & Douglas Webber, 2018. "The Returns to College Persistence for Marginal Students: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from University Dismissal Policies," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(3), pages 779-805.
    7. Philip Babcock & Mindy Marks, 2011. "The Falling Time Cost of College: Evidence from Half a Century of Time Use Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(2), pages 468-478, May.
    8. Oreopoulos, Philip & Petronijevic, Uros & Logel, Christine & Beattie, Graham, 2020. "Improving non-academic student outcomes using online and text-message coaching," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 171(C), pages 342-360.
    9. Adam M. Lavecchia & Heidi Liu & Philip Oreopoulos, 2014. "Behavioral Economics of Education: Progress and Possibilities," NBER Working Papers 20609, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Christopher R. Dobronyi & Philip Oreopoulos & Uros Petronijevic, 2017. "Goal Setting, Academic Reminders, and College Success: A Large-Scale Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 23738, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Philip Oreopoulos & Reuben Ford, 2019. "Keeping College Options Open: A Field Experiment to Help all High School Seniors Through the College Application Process," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 38(2), pages 426-454, March.
    12. Martin Nybom, 2017. "The Distribution of Lifetime Earnings Returns to College," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(4), pages 903-952.
    13. Philip Oreopoulos & Uros Petronijevic, 2013. "Making College Worth It: A Review of Research on the Returns to Higher Education," NBER Working Papers 19053, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. William N. Evans & Melissa S. Kearney & Brendan C. Perry & James X. Sullivan, 2017. "Increasing Community College Completion Rates among Low-Income Students: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial Evaluation of a Case Management Intervention," NBER Working Papers 24150, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. George Psacharopoulos & Harry Anthony Patrinos, 2018. "Returns to investment in education: a decennial review of the global literature," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 26(5), pages 445-458, September.
    16. Benjamin L. Castleman & Lindsay C. Page, 2016. "Freshman Year Financial Aid Nudges: An Experiment to Increase FAFSA Renewal and College Persistence," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 51(2), pages 389-415.
    17. Beattie, Graham & Laliberté, Jean-William P. & Oreopoulos, Philip, 2018. "Thrivers and divers: Using non-academic measures to predict college success and failure," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 170-182.
    18. Philip Oreopoulos & Richard W. Patterson & Uros Petronijevic & Nolan G. Pope, 2018. "When Studying and Nudging Don’t Go as Planned: Unsuccessful Attempts to Help Traditional and Online College Students," NBER Working Papers 25036, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Eric P. Bettinger & Bridget Terry Long & Philip Oreopoulos & Lisa Sanbonmatsu, 2012. "The Role of Application Assistance and Information in College Decisions: Results from the H&R Block Fafsa Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(3), pages 1205-1242.
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    Cited by:

    1. Islam, Asad & Kwon, Sungoh & Masood, Eema & Prakash, Nishith & Sabarwal, Shwetlena & Saraswat, Deepak, 2020. "When Goal-Setting Forges Ahead but Stops Short," GLO Discussion Paper Series 526, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    2. Islam, Asadul & Kwon, Sungoh & Masood, Eema & Prakash, Nishith & Sabarwal, Shwetlena & Saraswat, Deepak, 2020. "When Goal-Setting Forges Ahead but Stops Short," IZA Discussion Papers 13188, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Canaan, Serena & Deeb, Antoine & Mouganie, Pierre, 2019. "Advisor Value-Added and Student Outcomes: Evidence from Randomly Assigned College Advisors," IZA Discussion Papers 12739, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    behavioural economics of education; nudge; college student achievement; coaching; mindset; RCT;

    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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