Inequality of Opportunity and Access to Tertiary Education: evidence from an information experiment

Last registered on December 28, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Inequality of Opportunity and Access to Tertiary Education: evidence from an information experiment
Initial registration date
March 09, 2022

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
March 10, 2022, 9:02 PM EST

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

Last updated
December 28, 2023, 11:29 AM EST

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


Primary Investigator

University of Bologna

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Bologna
PI Affiliation
University of Milan

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Strong intergenerational associations in wealth have fueled a long-standing debate over why students of low-income parents tend to have on average lower incentives to be highly educated. Understanding the role of preferences, attitudes, and future expectations according to social background seems crucial in the students’ decision to invest in higher education. Perceptions about the consumption value of education may explain a substantial share of the variation in students’ ability to prosecute their study, influencing their probability of finding a job. For this purpose, we conducted a randomized control experiment with university students in Emilia-Romagna who benefit from the financial aid program offered by the regional public system. We want to explore what type of message is more effective in eliciting aid recipients’ attitudes and expectations. In particular, we compare messages stressing the importance of receiving public grants compared to the role of education in terms of career success. We can document whether or not students’ beliefs about the consumption value of tertiary education predict students’ beliefs compared to how likely public grants may help obtain the necessary grades to proceed into the labor market stage with a more significant probability of success. Differences in the perceived consumption value of education across gender and socio-economic groups can account for a large proportion of the gender and socio-economic gaps both in students’ intentions to select some jobs as well as in their perceptions about their performance. In this direction, a spatial regression evaluation can be derived based on the geographical residence of the students’ families.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Bonacini, Luca, Giuseppe Pignataro and Veronica Rattini. 2023. "Inequality of Opportunity and Access to Tertiary Education: evidence from an information experiment." AEA RCT Registry. December 28.
Experimental Details


The information treatment involves two messages and we want to explore what type of message is more effective in shifting aid recipients’ expectations and education performance. The first message stresses the importance of receiving and keeping public grants for students’ educational success; the second message focuses on the consumption value of tertiary education.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Student's outcomes: Expectations about future work experience, Willingness to continue to study, Expectations about job-finding timing, Expectations about job skill-matching, Credits, GPA, Graduation Time, Exam sittings attempted, Timing of exam sitting.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
We will explore treatment heterogeneities by the following students’ characteristics:
Income and Socio-Economic Background, Gender, Ex-ante performance, Migration Status, Major type
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Hypothesis: If the respondent receives information on the fact that the probability of their educational success is higher when they receive and keep the public grant, they will be more likely to shift their expectations and performance than the control group. We also expect students receiving information on the fact that the probability of their job success is higher when they complete tertiary education, to have better future expectations and increase their educational performance.
Experimental Design Details
We invited the full population of university students in the Emilia-Romagna Region who benefit from the financial aid to participate in the experiment, i.e. a total of XXXX students in the 2021/2022 academic year. The message will be randomly assigned at the student level following a between-subject design. Students in the control group will not receive any message.
Randomization Method
Randomization performed by Qualtrics, the survey software we use to conduct the survey.
Randomization Unit
Randomization is performed at the individual level stratifying the sample by gender, residence and migration status.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
All people that have access to educational grants in the four Universities in the region of Emilia Romagna, e.g. 22000 students.
Sample size: planned number of observations
20% of the full population: 0.20*22.000=4400
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
1466 students in the control, 1466 students in the info1 treatment, 1466 students in the info2 treatment
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Given sample size and sample variance, we can calculate the smallest real effect size which we would be able to detect at 80% power. This value is called the minimal detectable effect with 80% power, or 0.8 MDE.

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

There is information in this trial unavailable to the public. Use the button below to request access.

Request Information


Is the intervention completed?
Intervention Completion Date
February 28, 2022, 12:00 +00:00
Data Collection Complete
Data Collection Completion Date
February 28, 2022, 12:00 +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
8 clusters
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
almost 8000 students - 35% of 24000 (entire population)
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
around 2500 students by treatment arms.
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials