Inequality concerns, regressive redistribution and public support for university tuition fees

Last registered on September 25, 2020

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
Inequality concerns, regressive redistribution and public support for university tuition fees
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0006527
Initial registration date
September 25, 2020

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
September 25, 2020, 1:53 PM EDT

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

Locations

Region

Primary Investigator

Affiliation
University of Konstanz

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Konstanz
PI Affiliation
University of Konstanz
PI Affiliation
University of Konstanz

Additional Trial Information

Status
On going
Start date
2020-09-07
End date
2021-09-30
Secondary IDs
Abstract
In this trial, we investigate the mechanism that drive public opinion on university tuition fees. Specifically, we examine how perceptions about unequal access to university education and perceptions about a fair burden sharing of study costs drive public support for university tuition fees. To examine our research question, we designed a survey experiment where randomly selected subgroups of the German population receive an information treatment, relative to university tuition fees, to update their knowledge and subsequent preferences for policy changes.
The first information treatment informs respondents that a student’s likelihood of going to university highly depends on his or her parents’ education. The second information treatment confronts respondents with the argument that tax-financed university education paired with a skewed distribution of students’ parental background towards better-educated families leads to an unjust burden sharing of study costs. The goal of our survey experiment is to examine if learning about unequal access to university education or undesired redistributive impacts of current university financing changes public opinion on university tuition fees. We are particularly interested in examining the interaction effect of these two information treatments.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Bellani, Luna et al. 2020. "Inequality concerns, regressive redistribution and public support for university tuition fees." AEA RCT Registry. September 25. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.6527
Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
To examine the driving forces behind public support for tuition fees at public universities, we design a survey module with an embedded experiment. The module is part of a representative opinion survey on inequality and social mobility in Germany, conducted by the University of Konstanz. Depending on the experimental group, subjects are part of the control without additional information or belong to one of the two treatment groups.
Intervention Start Date
2020-09-07
Intervention End Date
2020-09-28

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Our primary outcomes of interest are subjects’ support for different types of tuition fees at public universities. We elicit traditional tuition fees payed in advance as well as income-contingent tuition fees payed after graduation and tuition fees, which depend on the income of the parents.

Question wording

General tuition fees – “Are you in favor or against that students, who study at a university or college in Germany, have to cover a share
of their study costs with tuition fees?”

Downstream uition fees – “In other countries, there are tuition fees at public universities which are only charged after graduation when the former students earn income. These DOWNSTREAM TUITION FEES only have to be repaid if their annual income is above a certain threshold.This is intended to ensure access to higher education for all, even in a fee-financed higher education system. Are you in favor or against that university or college students in Germany bear a share of their study costs with DOWNSTREAM TUITION FEES?”

Tuition fees dependent on parents’ income – “In some countries, there are INCOME-DEPENDENT TUITION FEES at public universities which are based on the income of parents, so that students from wealthy families pay higher fees than students from less wealthy families. Grants (like the German BAföG) are paid for students from socially disadvantaged households. In this way, access to higher education is to be made possible for all, even with a fee-financed higher education system. Are you in favor or against that university or college students in Germany bear a share of their study costs with INCOME-DEPENDENT TUITION FEES?”

Answer categories:
5-point scale: 1=”I am strongly against it”, 2=”I am more against it”,3=”I am neither in favor not against it”, 4=”I am more in favor
of it”, 5=”I am strongly in favor of it”
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Our secondary outcomes of interest are subjects’ perception of unequal opportunities in the German education system.

Question wording
What do you think, is inequality of opportunities for children from different social backgrounds a serious problem in the German education system?

Answer categories:
5-point scale: 1=“No problem at all”, 2=”a small problem”, 3=”an intermediate problem”, 4=”a serious problem”, 5=”a very serious problem”
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The experiment will consist of three groups, a control and two treatment groups. The treatment groups receive information on the unequal access of university education and the undesired redistributive impact of state-financed university education. Respondents are asked for their support for general tuition fees, downstream tuition fees and income-dependent tuition fees as the outcome variable. A battery of control variables will be solicited in the survey as well. We conduct the experiment in a sample of 6,000 adults aged 18 years and older. The German survey institute, KANTAR is doing the fieldwork of the survey. KANTAR is going to manage the recruitment and collect the data via an online platform. Therefore, our participants answer the survey questions autonomously on their own digital devices. The randomization is done by KANTAR at the individual level.

Our experiment has two stages. In the first stage, respondents will be randomly assigned to the control group (p=1/2) or treatment 1
(p=1/2). In the second stage, respondents will be assigned to the control group (p=1/2) or treatment 2 (p=1/2).

Control group:
No additional information

Treatment 1:
Information set about a student’s likelihood of going to a public university, dependent on his or her parents’ education.

Treatment 2:
Information set about undesired redistribution from the bottom to the top with tax-financed public universities. This information
is presented as part of a survey question that only respondents in the treatment condition receive. The question elicits the support for
the argument that a state-financed university education has redistributive impacts.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization is carried out by the survey company KANTAR, using a computer.
Randomization Unit
Randomization Unit at the individual level.
Was the treatment clustered?
No

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
6,000 individuals
Sample size: planned number of observations
Sample size: 6,000 individuals (aged 18 years and older)
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Sample size by treatment arms: 6,000 individuals, 1/4 (app. 1500) will be assigned to each of the four experimental groups.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number

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