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Expectations of upward mobility in parental school track choice
Last registered on May 13, 2019


Trial Information
General Information
Expectations of upward mobility in parental school track choice
Initial registration date
April 30, 2019
Last updated
May 13, 2019 11:30 PM EDT

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Primary Investigator
ifo Institut, Munich
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
ifo Institut, Munich
PI Affiliation
ifo Institut, Munich
PI Affiliation
ifo Institut, Munich
Additional Trial Information
In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Despite its legacy of tracking, the modern German education system offers a multitude of transfer opportunities that allow students to switch school tracks before, during and after high school. However, these transfer opportunities are used seldomly, with initial tracking choices proving to be final for many students. In this project we test whether preferences for school track in Germany are affected by (incorrect) beliefs about upward mobility within the tracked system. To this end, we implement an online-survey experiment in a representative sample of adults. First, we elicit respondents’ beliefs about university graduation rates by school track in the German education system. Second, we provide a randomly selected treatment group with information on these graduation rates. This research design allows us to test whether respondents hold incorrect prior beliefs about the persistence of initial school track choice, and whether providing information challenging incorrect beliefs affects aspirations for academic track schools.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Grewenig, Elisabeth et al. 2019. "Expectations of upward mobility in parental school track choice ." AEA RCT Registry. May 13. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.4157-1.0.
Former Citation
Grewenig, Elisabeth et al. 2019. "Expectations of upward mobility in parental school track choice ." AEA RCT Registry. May 13. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/4157/history/46362.
Experimental Details
We conduct our experiment in a survey context. First, we elicit respondents’ beliefs about the share of students from Gymnasium and other schools that later on obtain a university degree. Second, we randomly allocate each respondent to either the control or treatment group. In the control group, respondents are asked to choose between academic track or other school types as the school type they would prefer for their child. In the treatment group, respondents are informed of the share of students from each school type that later on obtain a university degree before answering the same question. This design allows us to estimate a treatment effect of providing information on the share of students using the transfer options embedded in the German education system on aspirations for initial school track attendance.

Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
We are mainly interested in the choice of ideal school track, elicited in the questionnaire
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
We ask respondents to indicate which school type, “Gymnasium” (academic track school) or another school (for example middle track or comprehensive school), they would ideally like to enroll their child in if they had a child in primary school getting good grades.

Question: “Imagine you had a child in the last grade of primary school who gets a grade of 2 (good) in most subjects. For which of the following secondary schools would you prefer to enroll your child in this case?”
o Gymnasium (academic high school),
o Another type of school, e.g. middle track school or comprehensive school

Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
1) Prior beliefs about share of students that obtain a university education conditional on attending an academic track school or another school, for example a middle track or comprehensive school
2) Heterogeneity by respondents’ own education background
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
For elicitation of prior beliefs
“What do you think is the share of students in the following schools who will later graduate from a university or a university of applied sciences?”
[ANSWER] of 100 pupils going to Gymnasium (academic track) after primary school”
[ANSWER] of 100 pupils who go to another secondary school after primary school (all types of non-Gymnasium schools, except special needs schools)

For heterogeneity by respondents’ own education background we use questions from a sociodemographic module in the questionnaire

Experimental Design
Experimental Design
We conduct the experiment in a sample of more than 4,000 adults. The sampling and polling is done in cooperation with KANTAR Public, who use an online-access panel to recruit respondents. The questions are answered by respondents independently, without interviewer contact.

The experiment is structured as follows:
STAGE 1: Belief elicitation for all respondents
STAGE 2: Elicitation of preferences for academic track schools
1) Random allocation into control and treatment group
2) Information treatment provided to treatment group
3) Survey question on ideal school track
STAGE 3: Sociodemographic questionnaire, including education of respondent
STAGE 4: Follow-up survey about two weeks later repeating the elicitation of preferences from the second stage (control group wording)

Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization is carried out by the the survey company KANTAR Public on questionnaire level.
Randomization Unit
at the individual level
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
4,000 respondents
Sample size: planned number of observations
4,000 adults aged 18 years and older
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
2,000 respondents control and treatment respectively
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number