Unintended Negative Consequences of Rewards for Student Attendance: Results from a Field Experiment in Indian Classrooms

Melody M. Chao, Rajeev Dehejia, Anirban Mukhopadhyay, Sujata Visaria
Economics of Education Review, Volume 54 (October 2016), pp. 173-184.

In an experiment in non-formal schools in Indian slums, a reward scheme for attending a target number of school days increased average attendance when the scheme was in place, but had heterogeneous effects after it was removed. Among students with high baseline attendance, the incentive had no effect on attendance after it was discontinued, and test scores were unaffected. Among students with low baseline attendance, the incentive low- ered post-incentive attendance, and test scores decreased. For these students, the incen- tive was also associated with lower interest in school material and lower optimism and confidence about their ability. This suggests incentives might have unintended long-term consequences for the very students they are designed to help the most. 

Wagner Faculty