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Measuring Success in Education: The Role of Effort on the Test Itself

Author

Listed:
  • Uri Gneezy
  • John A. List
  • Jeffrey A. Livingston
  • Sally Sadoff
  • Xiangdong Qin
  • Yang Xu

Abstract

Tests measuring and comparing educational achievement are an important policy tool. We experimentally show that offering students extrinsic incentives to put forth effort on such achievement tests has differential effects across cultures. Offering incentives to U.S. students, who generally perform poorly on assessments, improved performance substantially. In contrast, Shanghai students, who are top performers on assessments, were not affected by incentives. Our findings suggest that in the absence of extrinsic incentives, ranking countries based on low-stakes assessments is problematic because test scores reflect differences in intrinsic motivation to perform well on the test itself, and not just differences in ability.

Suggested Citation

  • Uri Gneezy & John A. List & Jeffrey A. Livingston & Sally Sadoff & Xiangdong Qin & Yang Xu, 2017. "Measuring Success in Education: The Role of Effort on the Test Itself," NBER Working Papers 24004, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:24004
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Eric A. Hanushek & Ludger Woessmann, 2011. "How much do educational outcomes matter in OECD countries?," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 26(67), pages 427-491, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. John List & Anya Samek & Dana Suskind, 2017. "Combining Behavioral Economics and Field Experiments to Reimagine Early Childhood Education," Artefactual Field Experiments 00595, The Field Experiments Website.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality

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