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Educational Incentives for Parents and Children in India
Last registered on May 24, 2018

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Educational Incentives for Parents and Children in India
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0001449
Initial registration date
May 23, 2018
Last updated
May 24, 2018 11:09 AM EDT
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Cornell University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2007-01-01
End date
2007-12-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
In the past decade, there has been an increasing recognition of the importance of education for social welfare and national economic growth and, subsequently, there has been a large push to increase enrollment and learning in primary schools. Until recently, interventions to improve schooling outcomes have typically taken the form of supply-side reforms, such as improvements in infrastructure, materials, or teachers. Over the past decade, policy attention has shifted towards demand-side interventions, which either lower the costs or increase the immediate benefits that households face when deciding to educate their children. One common demand-side intervention is to offer cash rewards or other incentives to households, usually to the parents, when their children attend or perform well in school. Implicit in the design of these interventions is the idea that rewarding the parents, rather than the children, produces the best results. However, there is limited evidence on whether it is more effective to target parents or children. If parents do not place a high value on learning or if they are unable to fully motivate their children, then incentives provided to children could result in better outcomes than incentives provided to parents.

Researchers report results of a field experiment in Gurgaon, India that offered cash and non-cash incentives to learn either to children or to their parents. While the research finds no evidence that the identity of the recipient or form of the reward mattered in the aggregate, non-cash incentives targeted to children were more effective for initially low-performing children, while the cash incentives were more effective for high-performing children. To explore the mechanisms behind this result, researchers present a model of household education production and find additional empirical results consistent with the model.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Berry, James. 2018. "Educational Incentives for Parents and Children in India." AEA RCT Registry. May 24. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.1449-1.0.
Former Citation
Berry, James. 2018. "Educational Incentives for Parents and Children in India." AEA RCT Registry. May 24. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/1449/history/29992.
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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
Researchers conducted a randomized evaluation to test whether the identity of the recipient of education incentives - either the parent or child - can influence the effectiveness of incentives on educational outcomes. In July 2007, researchers performed an initial test of children's reading ability in eight government-run primary schools in Gurgaon, a suburb of Delhi. Approximately one week after the pretest, researchers visited each child's home to conduct a baseline survey and explain the incentive program. Based on his/her pretest score, each child was given a goal competency to be reached when s/he was re-tested after two months. If the child achieved the goal, either s/he or his/her parent would receive a prize.

Three types of rewards were offered in order to target the parent or child. The parent money treatment offered a reward of 100 rupees (US$2.50) to the mother if the child achieved the goal, while the child money treatment offered the same amount to the child. However, survey responses indicated that parents had control over money given to the child. Thus, both types of incentives effectively targeted the parent. The child toy treatment offered a reward of a toy valued at 100 rupees (US$2.50) to the child if the child achieved the goal. Because the toys were items not easily appropriated by the parent, this treatment effectively targeted the child. An additional treatment was included to test whether parents who want to reward their children for performing well have difficulty committing to doing so. For example, parents might be unable to credibly commit to reward their children for good performance on a test because they are unable to put the resources aside to purchase the reward. In this treatment, parents were given a choice between money for themselves and a toy for their child at the outset of the program. They could thus commit to rewarding their children by choosing the toy.

All children in the program, regardless of treatment, were given the opportunity to attend free after-school reading classes, which ran for three hours every afternoon that school was in session. The classes gave children a greater chance to reach the goals set out by the program, but also provided an objective measure of both child and parent effort.
Intervention Start Date
2007-07-01
Intervention End Date
2007-09-01
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Reading test scores
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Eight government-run primary schools were selected based on proximity to the city center and availability of public transportation nearby. In seven schools all first, second, and third grade students participated in the program. In one school, first-grade children were excluded due to administrative difficulties in obtaining these students’ addresses. The experiment consisted of a pretest, announcement of the child’s incentive scheme, and a post-test approximately two months later.

Children were initially tested for reading ability during school time to determine baseline learning levels. The test used an instrument developed by Pratham and used in national assessments of child reading ability. Each child was evaluated on a five-point scale: 0) the child could not recognize letters, 1) the child could recognize letters, 2) the child could read simple words, 3) the child could read a simple paragraph, and 4) the child could read and understand a multi-paragraph story. Each child scoring below the highest level on the test was given a goal competency based on his pretest score and was administered one of six randomly-assigned incentive schemes.

The treatments were assigned at the individual level. In order to increase power to detect heterogeneity by pretest score, the randomization was stratified by pretest score within each school, grade, and classroom. Award of the incentive depended on the performance of the children on a post-test, conducted two months after the program announcement. The prize value was set at 100 rupees (about $2.50 at the prevailing exchange rate) for all treatments. At the time of the study, 100 rupees was the approximate daily wage for an unskilled laborer in these areas.

The experiment consisted of six treatment groups. Four treatment groups assigned the household a reward that varied along two dimensions: the direct recipient of the reward (either the parent or child) and the form of the reward (either money or a toy). The two remaining groups offered the parent a choice between money for herself and a toy, either upon program announcement or conditional on reaching the goal. Regardless of treatment category, all children were invited to attend free after-school classes run as part of the program.

The classes were led by teachers trained to assist the children in achieving their literacy goals. The profile and training of the teachers followed the para-teacher model of Pratham, a large India-wide NGO specializing in literacy and numeracy. In each school, enough teachers were provided so that there was at least one teacher for every 20 to 30 students who attended the classes. Classes ran for three hours every afternoon that school was in session. Children were free to attend on a drop-in basis, and teachers were given flexibility to customize lessons based on the reading levels of the children who attended.

A sample of 330 children per treatment group had initially been planned, but the sample was ultimately limited due to budget constraints. Out of 1466 children who took the pretest, 331 were excluded from the study because they achieved the highest possible test score, and 49 others were excluded because they lived too far from the schools, making surveying impractical. 1086 children were thus available for the randomization. Eighty-five percent of children out of the randomized group of 1086 were reached for the baseline survey and program announcement. The attrition between the randomization and program announcement was primarily due to difficulty in locating the children’s homes and in reaching the parents at home. Of the 925 children offered the program, 900 (97 percent) took the post-test after two months. Most of the 25 students who were not available for the post-test had moved away since the program announcement. The final analysis sample contains approximately 150 children in each of the six treatment groups.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Computer
Randomization Unit
A student
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
NA; the treatment is not clustered
Sample size: planned number of observations
1,980-student sample was initially planned; 1,466 students took the pre-test; 1,086 students were available for randomization (331 students were excluded because they achieved the highest possible test score; 49 others were excluded because they lived too far from the schools, making surveying impractical).
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Final: Parent Money (150 students); Child Money (152 students); Child Toy (151 students); Voucher (145 students); Ex-Ante Choice (151 students); Ex-Post Choice (151 students)
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
IRB Approval Date
Details not available
IRB Approval Number
Details not available
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
Yes
Intervention Completion Date
September 01, 2007, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Yes
Data Collection Completion Date
September 01, 2007, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
NA; treatment is not clustered
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
No
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
900 students
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
Parent Money (150 students); Child Money (152 students); Child Toy (151 students); Voucher (145 students); Ex-Ante Choice (151 students); Ex-Post Choice (151 students)
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers
Abstract
Online Appendices
Citation
Berry, James. "Child Control in Education Decisions: An Evaluation of Targeted Incentives to Learn in India: Online Appendices." September 2014.
Abstract
In the past decade, there has been an increasing recognition of the importance of education for social welfare and national economic growth and, subsequently, there has been a large push to increase enrollment and learning in primary schools. Until recently, interventions to improve schooling outcomes have typically taken the form of supply-side reforms, such as improvements in infrastructure, materials, or teachers. Over the past decade, policy attention has shifted towards demand-side interventions, which either lower the costs or increase the immediate benefits that households face when deciding to educate their children. One common demand-side intervention is to offer cash rewards or other incentives to households, usually to the parents, when their children attend or perform well in school. Implicit in the design of these interventions is the idea that rewarding the parents, rather than the children, produces the best results. However, there is limited evidence on whether it is more effective to target parents or children. If parents do not place a high value on learning or if they are unable to fully motivate their children, then incentives provided to children could result in better outcomes than incentives provided to parents.

Researchers report results of a field experiment in Gurgaon, India that offered cash and non-cash incentives to learn either to children or to their parents. While the research finds no evidence that the identity of the recipient or form of the reward mattered in the aggregate, non-cash incentives targeted to children were more effective for initially low-performing children, while the cash incentives were more effective for high-performing children. To explore the mechanisms behind this result, researchers present a model of household education production and finds additional empirical results consistent with the model.
Citation
Berry, James. "Child Control in Education Decisions: An Evaluation of Targeted Incentives to Learn in India." Working Paper, September 2014.
Abstract
I report the results of a field experiment in Gurgaon, India that offered cash and noncash incentives to learn either to children or to their parents. While I find no evidence that the identity of the recipient or form of the reward mattered in the aggregate, noncash incentives targeted to children were more effective for initially low- performing children while cash incentives were more effective for high- performing children. To explore the mechanisms behind this result, I present a model of household education production and find additional empirical results consistent with the model.
Citation
Berry, James. "Child Control in Education Decisions: An Evaluation of Targeted Incentives to Learn in India." The Human Resource Journal Volume 50#4 (Fall 2015)