A library in the palm of your hand? Inequalities in Reading Literacy and Educational Attainment.

Last registered on November 15, 2021


Trial Information

General Information

A library in the palm of your hand? Inequalities in Reading Literacy and Educational Attainment.
Initial registration date
November 12, 2021
Last updated
November 15, 2021, 11:55 AM EST


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Primary Investigator

University of Potsdam

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Deutsches Zentrum für Hochschul- und Wissenschaftsforschung (DZHW)
PI Affiliation
PI Affiliation
University of Potsdam
PI Affiliation
IAB and Universität Bamberg
PI Affiliation

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Multiple studies demonstrate the strong link between parental socio-economic background and children’s academic success. On average, children from households with a lower socio-economic status (SES) have poorer academic achievement, a lower likelihood of going to college, and inferior labor market outcomes throughout their adult life than have children from high-SES households. These adverse outcomes can be partially attributed to lower parental investments, both monetary and non-monetary, as the home learning environment and the resources available to support children’s development vary greatly by parental SES. Children from low-SES families receive less encouragement and smaller incentives to develop cognitive and non-cognitive skills (Cunha et al. 2006; Heckman & Masterov 2007; Law et al. 2018; Kalil et al. 2019).
In Germany, average literacy skills and their distribution differ significantly between children from low and high SES backgrounds (Gambaro et al. 2019). Likely, the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated these disparities, as school closures and the resulting disruptions in the educational process have had a particularly negative impact on the academic achievement of those children, whose learning conditions and support options at home were limited compared to their peers.
This project aims to promote out-of-school reading for fifth and sixth grade students from low SES households. Reading literacy is a prerequisite for knowledge acquisition and thus is crucial for the development of cognitive and non-cognitive skills. We draw on survey information of schoolchildren from low-income families – most of them dependent on social welfare – from the study “Corona & Du (CoDu)”. We sampled these families from the Social Security Records of the German Federal Employment Agency, namely the “Integrated Employment Biographies and the Unemployment Benefit II Recipient History.. We examine the extent to which a reading intervention can lead to improvements in reading literacy, academic performance, and higher educational acquisition of children living in low-income households. Therefore, promoting children’s reading literacy might improve their educational pathways as well as their future transition into the labor market, and thus should generate social and economic benefits for the children themselves as well as for society.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Anger, Silke et al. 2021. "A library in the palm of your hand? Inequalities in Reading Literacy and Educational Attainment.." AEA RCT Registry. November 15. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.8561-1.0
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Our primary outcomes are:
(i) daily/weekly reading frequencies and average duration
(ii) reading competence
(iii) grades in German and mathematics (contingent of finding a “first stage”)
(iv) educational aspirations (contingent of finding a “first stage”)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Participating children are asked to read a text developed or recommended by the Institute for Educational Quality Improvement (IQB) and answer ten questions that test their reading comprehension. We integrate the text into the online survey and we do not impose time limits. The texts used in each wave are comparable in difficulty. Our outcome is the index we construct based on the correct answers.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Our secondary outcomes are:
(i) Non-cognitive skills (e.g. Grit, self-esteem, and social-emotional behavior)
(ii) Leisure time activities
(iii) Occupational aspirations

Longer-run outcomes:
(i) Educational success (degree),
(ii) Labor market success (e.g. School-to-work transition, employment status, and wages derived from registry data)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Individual-level stratified randomization of 1000 students in grades five and six. The study population is derived from a sample of families with children aged 10 to 17 from the Social Security Records of the German Federal Employment Agency.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Stratified randomization
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
1000 individuals
Sample size: planned number of observations
1000 individuals
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
500 individuals as control units and 500 individuals as treatment units
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Ethikrat Otto-Friedrich Universität Bamberg
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number