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Beliefs, Ability and College Major Success

Last registered on November 03, 2020

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
Beliefs, Ability and College Major Success
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0003432
Initial registration date
June 03, 2019

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
June 10, 2019, 10:27 PM EDT

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

Last updated
November 03, 2020, 2:39 PM EST

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.

Locations

Primary Investigator

Affiliation

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
UC Davis

Additional Trial Information

Status
Completed
Start date
2018-10-02
End date
2019-10-16
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Research in the economics of education has demonstrated the students often lack important information about the characteristics of different majors when in college. This field experiment aims to assess whether students may benefit from information about the distribution of academic ability in their preferred field of study by providing them with information about the average test score or high school GPA of recent graduates in their stated preferred major. Several outcomes of interest will be studied, including course taking behavior, grades in those courses, college major choice and graduation. Particular attention will be paid to differential effects based on gender as well as how accurate students' beliefs are about the distribution of beliefs.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Carrell, Scott and Derek Rury. 2020. "Beliefs, Ability and College Major Success." AEA RCT Registry. November 03. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.3432
Former Citation
Carrell, Scott and Derek Rury. 2020. "Beliefs, Ability and College Major Success." AEA RCT Registry. November 03. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/3432/history/79039
Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
I present average standardized test of high school GPA information, calculated by major, to college students in introductory STEM or STEM-related fields to measure the impact of this information on important college outcomes, such as courses-taken, grades, college major(s) and minor and finally graduation. After asking students several baseline questions about their beliefs, students reveal their top two choices of major along with which academic measure (eg. SAT math) is most representative of ability in that field. I then ask students what they think is the average score, of the selected measure, of recent graduates with that major. Students are then randomly assigned the actual average score of that measure for that major.
Intervention Start Date
2018-10-02
Intervention End Date
2019-10-16

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Courses-taken (dropped), grades, major(s) and minor selected and graduation
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
The information provided updates students beliefs about their relative ability. This will likely influence the primary outcomes of interest.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
I will look at how the baseline answers, as well as the treatment effect varies by several important demographic characteristics, such as gender, socio-economic status, first generation college student, high school success. I will also test for the existence of various biases on college major decisions, specifically "confirmation bias" in which students place more weight on information that confirms their beliefs and less weight on information that contradicts their beliefs
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Research has shown that information about ability is likely to influence different groups in unique ways. Also, given that the field has focused on the role of beliefs in educational decisions, testing for specific biases in this process is an important step to drilling down on the precise mechanisms through which beliefs operate.

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
I present average standardized test of high school GPA information, calculated by major, to college students in introductory STEM or STEM-related fields to measure the impact of this information on important college outcomes, such as courses-taken, grades, college major(s) and minor and finally graduation.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
The intervention is conducted through a survey software called "Qualtrics". The software has a way to randomize who gets treatment and who gets control. I ensured that treatment was stratified across all first and second choices of major, so that each first choice and each second choice has an equal number of treatment and control units.
Randomization Unit
Student level
Was the treatment clustered?
No

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
1,000 students
Sample size: planned number of observations
1,000 students
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
about 350 students were in treatment and 650 students were in control (this is unbalanced because only students who whose own score was above the average selected score for that major were eligible for treatment)
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
University of California at Davis
IRB Approval Date
2018-10-24
IRB Approval Number
00004557

Post-Trial

Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Intervention

Is the intervention completed?
No
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?
No

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials