Friday, August 3, 2012

Enhancing the Efficacy of Teacher Incentives through Loss Aversion

Domestic attempts to use financial incentives for teachers to increase student achievement have been ineffective. In this paper, NBER researchers demonstrate that exploiting the power of loss aversion—teachers are paid in advance and asked to give back the money if their students do not improve sufficiently—increases math test scores between 0.201 (0.076) and 0.398 (0.129) standard deviations. This is equivalent to increasing teacher quality by more than one standard deviation. A second treatment arm, identical to the loss aversion treatment but implemented in the standard fashion, yields smaller and statistically insignificant results. This suggests it is loss aversion, rather than other features of the design or population sampled, that leads to the stark differences between these findings and past research.

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