Information frictions in school track choice

Last registered on August 10, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Information frictions in school track choice
Initial registration date
August 02, 2023

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
August 10, 2023, 12:56 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.


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Primary Investigator

Free University of Bolzano

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
PI Affiliation
PI Affiliation
Ruhr Uni Bochum

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
The goal of the study is to study parental information frictions in making school type decisions for their children by providing different types of mobile information material regarding the secondary school choice. Previous evidence shows that in Germany, children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are underrepresented in the academic school track \citep{Woßmann2023, Blanden2023}. Also, children of immigrants often perform worse in school and have lower academic track choices than their native peers (Ammermüller, 2007; Wößmann, 2023). Their gap could even be widened by a lack of the host country's language skills of the students (Danzer, 2022) or the parents (Bleakley, 2008) and negative stereotypes (Carlana 2018). This study is the first to analyze whether a lack of knowledge about the German school system as well as linguistic barriers (that might cause this lack), hinders native and immigrant parents from making an informed decision about their children’s school track.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Hertweck, Friederike et al. 2023. "Information frictions in school track choice." AEA RCT Registry. August 10.
Experimental Details


We will conduct a randomized controlled trial targeting parents of 4th grade elementary school children in the German Federal state North Rhine-Westphalia.
This study is the first to analyze whether linguistic barriers and a lack of knowledge about the German school system and local school options hinders parents from making an informed decision about their children’s school track.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
-How well informed
-Registered school track
-Transition rates from elementary school to different school tracks
- School event participation
- School grades
- Predicted school track
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
1) How well informed: We ask in baseline and endline how well parents feel informed
2) Registered school track: We ask in an endline survey at which school type parents registered their child
3) Transition rates from elementary school to different school tracks: We use administrative data that has aggregated information which share of children transitioned from an elementary school to the different school types (also by gender and citizenship)
4) School event participation: We ask whether parents participated in informational events
5) School grades: We ask for students grades in math, German and Science
5) Predicted school track: We will use Machine learning to predict the registered school track based on characteristics

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
- Time, usage, ratings in App
- Aspirations
- Perceived Hurdles
- Used help
- Take up
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
1) Time, usage, ratings in App: We measure how much time users spend on different pages of the app, whether they click external links and whether they rate separate pages as useful
2) Aspirations: We ask parents which school track they wish for their child and can evaluate if there is differences by gender or origin
3) Perceived Hurdles: We can measure if parents are less likely to perceive hurdles in making their school track choice
4) Used help: we ask Parents whether they use any support for school matters
5) Take up: We can see if take up varies by school or parent characteristics

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Schools will be randomly assigned into four groups, so either the control group or one of the three treatment arms. Each group will have one fourth of the sample. Random assignment will be stratified by government district, number of non-German students, and the pre-year tracking status of children to the gymnasium per school for the previous year.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
1671 Targeted schools. In case pick up from schools is too low, we pre randomized also the remaining 1088 further schools that will be contacted then.
Sample size: planned number of observations
In the schoolyear 2022/2023 in North Rhine Westphalia 155 870 students transitioned from elementary school to secondary school, around 15% of them are foreign citizens (24 115). The number of students with a migration background is higher with an average of 40 % in all public schools in the schoolyear 21/22. Our prioritized schools have 412 069 students. Assuming that the number of students is equally distributed between grades, we expect around 100 000 students to be in the prioritized schools and to be contacted early on. Therefore we target the parents of around 100 000 elementary school students. 241,748 students are in our waiting list schools. Assuming again an even distribution of the number of students between the grades, we expect around 60 000 more students in the waiting group.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
We have 1671 prioritized schools. Of those 413 are in the control group, 417 in treatment arm 1, 428 in treatment arm 2, and 413 schools in treatment arm 3.

In our waiting list, we have 1088 schools, 270 in the control group, 274 in the treatment arm 1, 268 in the treatment arm 2, and 276 in the treatment arm 3.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Ethics research committee of the Free University of Bolzano
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

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