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Vertical versus Horizontal Incentives in Education: Evidence from Randomized Trials

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  • Roland G. Fryer, Jr
  • Tanaya Devi
  • Richard T. Holden

Abstract

This paper describes randomized field experiments in eighty-four urban public schools in two cities designed to understand the impact of aligned incentives on student achievement. In Washington DC, incentives were “horizontal” – provided to one agent (students) for various inputs in the education production function (i.e. attendance, behavior, interim assessments, homework, and uniforms). In Houston, TX, incentives were “vertical” – provided to multiple agents (parents, teachers, and students) for a single input (math objectives). On outcomes for which we provided direct incentives, there were large and statistically significant effects from both treatments. Horizontal incentives led to increases in math and reading test scores. Vertical incentives increased math achievement, but resulted in decreased reading, science, and social studies test scores. We argue that the data is consistent with agents perceiving academic achievement in various subjects as substitutes, not complements, in education production.

Suggested Citation

  • Roland G. Fryer, Jr & Tanaya Devi & Richard T. Holden, 2012. "Vertical versus Horizontal Incentives in Education: Evidence from Randomized Trials," NBER Working Papers 17752, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17752
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Paarsch, Harry J & Shearer, Bruce, 2000. "Piece Rates, Fixed Wages, and Incentive Effects: Statistical Evidence from Payroll Records," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 41(1), pages 59-92, February.
    2. Alan B. Krueger, 1999. "Experimental Estimates of Education Production Functions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(2), pages 497-532.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. Felipe Barrera-Osorio & Marianne Bertrand & Leigh L. Linden & Francisco Perez-Calle, 2008. "Conditional Cash Transfers in Education Design Features, Peer and Sibling Effects Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in Colombia," NBER Working Papers 13890, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Edward P. Lazear, 2001. "Educational Production," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(3), pages 777-803.
    8. Roland G. Fryer, Jr, 2010. "Financial Incentives and Student Achievement: Evidence from Randomized Trials," NBER Working Papers 15898, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Behrman, Jere R & Sengupta, Piyali & Todd, Petra, 2005. "Progressing through PROGRESA: An Impact Assessment of a School Subsidy Experiment in Rural Mexico," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(1), pages 237-275, October.
    10. Joshua Angrist & Daniel Lang & Philip Oreopoulos, 2006. "Lead Them to Water and Pay Them to Drink: An Experiment with Services and Incentives for College Achievement," NBER Working Papers 12790, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. repec:feb:natura:0004 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Borghans, Lex & Meijers, Huub & ter Weel, Bas, 2013. "The importance of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for measuring IQ," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 17-28.
    2. Guryan, Jonathan & Kim, James S. & Park, Kyung H., 2016. "Motivation and incentives in education: Evidence from a summer reading experiment," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 1-20.
    3. Oswald, Yvonne & Backes-Gellner, Uschi, 2014. "Learning for a bonus: How financial incentives interact with preferences," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 52-61.
    4. repec:eee:ecoedu:v:58:y:2017:i:c:p:55-67 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General

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