Can Information Increase Diversity in Economics? Experimental Evidence from Undergraduate Students

Last registered on April 21, 2020

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
Can Information Increase Diversity in Economics? Experimental Evidence from Undergraduate Students
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0005192
Initial registration date
December 18, 2019
Last updated
April 21, 2020, 10:21 AM EDT

Locations

Primary Investigator

Affiliation
Michigan State University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Michigan State University
PI Affiliation
Michigan State University
PI Affiliation
Michigan State University

Additional Trial Information

Status
In development
Start date
2020-01-06
End date
2021-06-01
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Economics has a long-running diversity problem. In 1993 only 30% of senior majors in the top economics departments in the US were women. As of 2017 this has only increased slightly to 35% (Lundberg and Sterns 2019). This is compared to women accounting for 59% of bachelor degree recipients overall in 2016. Similarly, African Americans and Hispanics account for 5% and 11%, respectively, of bachelor degrees awarded in economics nationally. To both understand and improve this lack of diversification, several initiatives have been developed and analyzed at various universities. One strand of this literature has found that women and minorities may avoid economics, and STEM fields more generally, because of existing stereotypes (e.g., Beasley and Fischer 2012; Cheryan et al. 2011; Correll 2001) and that providing this information can change behavior (Bayer & Lozano 2019; Frick et al. 2018; Li 2018). In this research project, we seek to answer whether a low-cost informational intervention can increase student diversity in economics courses and majors. To answer this questions, we will conduct a randomized control trial (RCT) in introductory economics classes that will provide a series of informational videos and/or information about where students' grades place in the historical grade distribution in these classes.

References:

Bayer, A., Bhanot, S. P., & Lozano, F. (2019, May). Does Simple Information Provision Lead to More Diverse Classrooms? Evidence from a Field Experiment on Undergraduate Economics. In AEA Papers and Proceedings (Vol. 109, pp. 110-14).

Beasley, M. A., & Fischer, M. J. (2012). Why they leave: The impact of stereotype threat on the attrition of women and minorities from science, math and engineering majors. Social Psychology of Education, 15(4), 427-448.

Cheryan, S., Siy, J. O., Vichayapai, M., Drury, B. J., & Kim, S. (2011). Do female and male role models who embody STEM stereotypes hinder women’s anticipated success in STEM?. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2(6), 656-664.

Correll, S. J. (2001). Gender and the career choice process: The role of biased self-assessments. American Journal of Sociology, 106(6), 1691-1730.

Fricke, H., Grogger, J., Steinmayr, A. (2018) Exposure to academic fields and college major choice Economics of Education Review, 64 199–213.

Li (2018). Do Mentoring, Information, and Nudge Reduce the Gender Gap among Economics Majors? Economics of Education Review, 64, 165-183.

Lundberg, S., & Stearns, J. (2019). Women in economics: Stalled progress. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 33(1), 3-22.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Chambers, Andrea et al. 2020. "Can Information Increase Diversity in Economics? Experimental Evidence from Undergraduate Students." AEA RCT Registry. April 21. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.5192-1.1
Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
The intervention provides a series of informational videos and/or information on the historical grade distribution to students enrolled in introductory economics classes at a US university. The goal of the intervention is to see if providing additional information can help increase diversity of economics majors.
Intervention Start Date
2020-02-10
Intervention End Date
2020-05-01

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Immediate outcomes (at end of class): likelihood of majoring or minoring in economics; likelihood of taking additional coursework in economics; perceptions of economics; grade in course

Long run outcomes (from administrative records): major/minor choice; enrollment in additional economics courses; grades in future economics courses; persistence; graduation
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The intervention will be conducted in introductory economics classes at a US university. Students in these classes who provide consent will complete a baseline survey and be randomized into one control and three treatment arms. The first arm will receive texts and/or emails with links to videos intended to provide information about the economics major, career opportunities, extracurricular activities, and correct misconceptions about the field. Students who provide affirmative consent will be randomized into one control and three treatment arms. The first arm will receive a series of texts and/or emails with links to videos intended to provide information about the economics major. The second arm provides a letter to the student after the completion of the semester providing information about the recent historical grade distribution in the class and provide some basic information about the field. The third arm combines both treatments. At the end of the course, all treatments and control will receive an exit survey that again asks about field preferences and perceptions about economics. After completion of the intervention, data on consenting students will be merged with administrative records to observe long-run outcomes.
Experimental Design Details
The intervention will be conducted in introductory economics classes at a Michigan State University (MSU). Students in these classes who provide consent will complete a baseline survey that asks about their background demographics, academic record, field preferences, and current perceptions about economics. Students who provide affirmative consent will be randomized into one control and three treatment arms. To incentivize completion a small portion of the students' grades will be based on responding to texts and emails, though students will not need to watch the videos or complete the surveys to receive the course credit. The first arm will receive a series of texts (if they provide their phone numbers and consent to texting) and emails with links to videos intended to provide information about the economics major, career opportunities, extracurricular activities, and correct misconceptions about the field. The link will also include a place for students to provide their student ID (for assigning course credit) and provide a brief "Did you know?" statement providing an innocuous fact about the economics major. The videos feature a mix of alumni, current majors, and faculty. The texts/emails also include an opportunity There are five videos in total and they are provided weekly until complete. The second arm provides a letter to the student after the completion of the semester providing information about the recent historical grade distribution in the class and provide some basic information about the field at MSU and generally. Throughout the course, this arm will also receive five texts/emails that provide the link to a place to provide their student ID to receive course credit and the "Did you know?" fact. Unlike the first treatment arm, no video links will be provided. The third arm combines both treatments. Control and non-consenters will also five receive texts/emails with a link to provide student ID for course credit and the "Did you know?" fact. No data on non-consenters will be captured except the student ID which is necessary for them to receive course credit. At the end of the course, all treatments and control will receive an exit survey (non-consentors will receive one more email as described above instead of the survey) that again asks about field preferences and perceptions about economics. After completion of the intervention, data on consenting students will be merged with administrative records at Michigan State University to observe long-run outcomes.
Randomization Method
Randomization will use a random number generator via Stata statistical software.
Randomization Unit
Randomization will first be conducted at the student level. Since the intervention is being conducted in both introductory macroeconomics and microeconomics courses students enrolled in both courses will only be in one treatment/control arm.
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
3000 students
Sample size: planned number of observations
3300 student-courses
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
750 students in each arm
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Michigan State University Human Research Protection Program
IRB Approval Date
2019-12-16
IRB Approval Number
STUDY00003613
Analysis Plan

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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