A06
Educational Choices, Market Design, and Student Outcomes
Discussion Papers

Discussion Paper No. 303
November 29, 2021

Aiding Applicants: Leveling the Playing Field within the Immediate Acceptance Mechanism

Author:

Christian Basteck (WZB Berlin)
Marco Mantovani (University of Milan-Bicocca)

Abstract:

In school choice problems, the widely used manipulable Immediate Acceptance mechanism (IA) disadvantages unsophisticated applicants, but may ex-ante Pareto dominate any strategy-proof alternative. In these cases, it may be preferable to aid applicants within IA, rather than to abandon it. In a laboratory experiment, we first document a substantial gap in strategy choices and outcomes between subjects of higher and lower cognitive ability under IA. We then test whether disclosing information on past applications levels the playing field. The treatment is effective in partially reducing the gap between applicants of above- and below-median cognitive ability and in curbing ability segregation across schools, but may leave the least able applicants further behind.

Keywords:

laboratory experiment; school choice; immediate acceptance; strategy-proofness; cognitive ability; mechanism design;

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Discussion Paper No. 294
November 15, 2021

Earnings Information and Public Preferences for University Tuition: Evidence from Representative Experiments

Author:

Ludger Woessmann (LMU Munich, ifo Institute, CESifo)
Philipp Lergetporer (TU Munich, ifo Institute, CESifo)

Abstract:

Higher education finance depends on the public’s preferences for charging tuition, which may be partly based on beliefs about the university earnings premium. To test whether public support for tuition depends on earnings information, we devise survey experiments in representative samples of the German electorate (N>15,000). The electorate is divided, with a plurality opposing tuition. Providing information on the university earnings premium raises support for tuition by 7 percentage points, turning the plurality in favor. The opposition-reducing effect persists two weeks after treatment. Information on fiscal costs and unequal access does not affect public preferences. We subject the baseline result to various experimental tests of replicability, robustness, heterogeneity, and consequentiality.

Keywords:

tuition; higher education; information; earnings premium; public opinion; voting;

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Discussion Paper No. 291
November 10, 2021

The Legacy of Covid-19 in Education

Author:

Katharin Werner (LMU Munich, CESifo)
Ludger Woessmann (LMU Munich, CESifo)

Abstract:

If school closures and social-distancing experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic impeded children’s skill development, they may leave a lasting legacy in human capital. To understand the pandemic’s effects on school children, this paper combines a review of the emerging international literature with new evidence from German longitudinal time-use surveys. Based on the conceptual framework of an education production function, we cover evidence on child, parent, and school inputs and students’ cognitive and socio-emotional development. The German panel evidence shows that children’s learning time decreased severely during the first school closures, particularly for low-achieving students, and increased only slightly one year later. In a value-added model, learning time increases with daily online class instruction, but not with other school activities. The review shows substantial losses in cognitive skills on achievement tests, particularly for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Socio-emotional wellbeing also declined in the short run. Structural models and reduced-form projections suggest that unless remediated, the school closures will persistently reduce skill development, lifetime income, and economic growth and increase inequality.

Keywords:

Covid-19; school closures; education; students; schools; educational inequality;

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Discussion Paper No. 280

Costly Information Acquisition in Centralized Matching Markets

Author:

Rustamdjan Hakimov (University of Lausanne, WZB Berlin)
Dorothea Kübler (WZB Berlin, TU Berlin)
Siqi Pan (University of Melbourne)

Abstract:

Every year during school and college admissions, students and their parents devote considerable time and effort to acquiring costly information about their own preferences. In a market where students are ranked by universities based on exam scores, we explore ways to reduce wasteful information acquisition - that is, to help students avoid acquiring information about their out-of-reach schools or universities - using a market design approach. We find that, both theoretically and experimentally, a sequential serial dictatorship mechanism leads to less wasteful information acquisition and higher student welfare than a direct serial dictatorship mechanism. This is because the sequential mechanism informs students about which universities are willing to admit them, thereby directing their search. Additionally, our experiments show that the sequential mechanism has behavioral advantages because subjects deviate from the optimal search strategy less frequently under the sequential than under the direct mechanism. We also investigate the effects of providing historical cutoff scores under the direct mechanism. We find that the cutoff provision can increase student welfare, especially when the information costs are high, although the effect is weaker than that of a sequential mechanism.

Keywords:

matching market; deferred acceptance; information acquisition; game theory; lab experiment;

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Discussion Paper No. 277

Can Mentoring Alleviate Family Disadvantage in Adolescence? A Field Experiment to Improve Labor-Market Prospects

Author:

Sven Resnjanskij (ifo Institute)
Jens Ruhose (Kiel University)
Simon Wiederhold (Catholic University Eichstaett-Ingolstadt)
Ludger Woessmann (ifo Institute, LMU Munich)

Abstract:

We study a mentoring program that aims to improve the labor-market prospects of school-attending adolescents from disadvantaged families by offering them a university-student mentor. Our RCT investigates program effectiveness on three outcome dimensions that are highly predictive of adolescents´ later labor-market success: math grades, patience/social skills, and labor-market orientation. For low-SES adolescents, the one-to-one mentoring increases a combined index of the outcomes by half a standard deviation after one year, with significant increases in each dimension. Part of the treatment effect is mediated by establishing mentors as attachment figures who provide guidance for the future. The mentoring is not effective for higher-SES adolescents. The results show that substituting lacking family support by other adults can help disadvantaged children at adolescent age.

Keywords:

mentoring; disadvantaged youths; adolescence; school performance; patience; social skills; labor-market orientation; field experiment;

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Discussion Paper No. 261

Understanding the Response to High-Stakes Incentives in Primary Education

Author:

Maximilian Bach (ZEW Mannheim)
Mira Fischer (WZB Berlin)

Abstract:

This paper studies responses to high-stakes incentives arising from early ability tracking. We use three complementary research designs exploiting differences in school track admission rules at the end of primary school in Germany’s early ability tracking system. Our results show that the need to perform well to qualify for a better track raises students’ math, reading, listening, and orthography skills in grade 4, the final grade before students are sorted into tracks. Evidence from self-reported behavior suggests that these effects are driven by greater study effort but not parental responses. However, we also observe that stronger incentives decrease student well-being and intrinsic motivation to study.

Keywords:

student effort; tracking; incentives;

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Discussion Paper No. 260
November 9, 2021

COVID-19 and Educational Inequality: How School Closures Affect Low- and High-Achieving Students

Author:

Elisabeth Grewenig (ifo Institute)
Philipp Lergetporer (ifo Institute)
Katharina Werner (ifo Institute)
Ludger Woessmann (ifo Institute)
Larissa Zierow (ifo Institute)

Abstract:

In spring 2020, governments around the globe shut down schools to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. We argue that low-achieving students may be particularly affected by the lack of educator support during school closures. We collect detailed time-use information on students before and during the school closures in a survey of 1,099 parents in Germany. We find that while students on average reduced their daily learning time of 7.4 hours by about half, the reduction was significantly larger for low-achievers (4.1 hours) than for high-achievers (3.7 hours). Low-achievers disproportionately replaced learning time with detrimental activities such as TV or computer games rather than with activities more conducive to child development. The learning gap was not compensated by parents or schools who provided less support for low-achieving students. The reduction in learning time was not larger for children from lower-educated parents, but it was larger for boys than for girls. For policy, our findings suggest binding distance-teaching concepts particularly targeted at low-achievers.

Keywords:

educational inequality; COVID-19; low-achieving students; home schooling; distance teaching;

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Discussion Paper No. 259

Gender Norms and Labor-Supply Expectations: Experimental Evidence from Adolescents

Author:

Elisabeth Grewenig (ifo Institute)
Philipp Lergetporer (ifo Institute)
Katharina Werner (ifo Institute)

Abstract:

Gender gaps in labor-market outcomes often emerge with the arrival of the first child. We investigate a causal link between gender norms and labor-supply expectations within a survey experiment among 2,000 German adolescents. Using a hypothetical scenario, we document that the majority of girls expects to work 20 hours or less per week when having a young child, and expects from their partner to work 30 hours or more. Randomized treatments that highlight the existing traditional norm towards mothers significantly reduce girls’ self-expected labor supply and thereby increase the expected gender difference in labor supply between their partners and themselves (the expected within-family gender gap). Treatment effects persist in a follow-up survey two weeks later, and extend to incentivized outcomes. In a second experiment, we highlight another, more gender-egalitarian, norm towards shared household responsibilities and show that this attenuates the expected within-family gender gap. Our results suggest that social norms play an important role in shaping gender gaps in labor-market outcomes around child birth.

Keywords:

gender norms; female labor supply; survey experiment;

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Discussion Paper No. 250

Sin taxes and Self-Control

Author:

Renke Schmacker (DIW Berlin)
Sinne Smed (University of Copenhagen)

Abstract:

"Sin taxes" are high on the political agenda in the global fight against obesity. According to theory, they are welfare improving if consumers with low self-control are at least as price responsive as consumers with high self-control, even in the absence of externalities. In this paper, we investigate if consumers with low and high self-control react differently to sin tax variation. For identification, we exploit two sets of sin tax reforms in Denmark: first, the increase of the soft drink tax in 2012 and its repeal in 2014 and, second, the fat tax introduction in 2011 and its repeal in 2013. We assess the purchase response empirically using a detailed homescan household panel. Our unique dataset comprises a survey measure of self-control linked to the panelists, which we use to divide the sample into consumers with low and high levels of self-control. We find that consumers with low self-control reduce purchases less strongly than consumers with high self-control when taxes go up, but increase purchases to a similar extent when taxes go down. Hence, we document an asymmetry in the responsiveness to increasing and decreasing prices. We find empirical and theoretical support that habit formation shapes the differential response by self-control. The results suggest that price instruments are not an effective tool for targeting self-control problems.

Keywords:

self-control; soft drink tax; fat tax; sin tax; internality;

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Discussion Paper No. 249

Culture and Student Achievement: The Intertwined Roles of Patience and Risk-Taking

Author:

Eric A. Hanushek (Standford University)
Lavinia Kinne (ifo Institute)
Philipp Lergetporer (ifo Institute)
Ludger Woessmann (LMU Munich, ifo Institute)

Abstract:

Patience and risk-taking – two cultural traits that steer intertemporal decision-making – are fundamental to human capital investment decisions. To understand how they contribute to international differences in student achievement, we combine PISA tests with the Global Preference Survey. We find that opposing effects of patience (positive) and risk-taking (negative) together account for two-thirds of the cross-country variation in student achievement. In an identification strategy addressing unobserved residence-country features, we find similar results when assigning migrant students their country-of-origin cultural traits in models with residence-country fixed effects. Associations of culture with family and school inputs suggest that both may act as channels.

Keywords:

culture; patience; risk-taking; preferences; intertemporal decision-making; international student achievement; PISA;

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