Curbing Adult Student Attrition: Evidence from a Field Experiment

24 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2015  

Raj Chande

Behavioural Insights Team

Michael Luca

Harvard Business School - Negotiations, Organizations & Markets Unit

Michael Sanders

Cabinet Office (UK) - Behavioural Insights Team

Xian‐Zhi Soon

Behavioural Insights Team

Oana Borcan

Göteborg University

Netta Barak Corren

Harvard Law School; Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Elizabeth Linos

Harvard Kennedy School of Government

Elspeth Kirkman

Behavioural Insights Team

Sean Robinson

Behavioural Insights Team

Date Written: February 1, 2015

Abstract

Roughly 20% of adults in the OECD lack basic numeracy and literacy skills. In the UK, many colleges offer fully government subsidized adult education programs to improve these skills. Constructing a unique dataset consisting of weekly attendance records for 1179 students, we find that approximately 25% of learners stop attending these programs in the first ten weeks and that average attendance rates deteriorate by 20% in that time. We implement a large‐scale field experiment in which we send encouraging text messages to students. Our initial results show that these simple text messages reduce the proportion of students that stop attending by 36% and lead to a 7% increase in average attendance relative to the control group. The effects on attendance rates persist through the three weeks of available data following the initial intervention.

Keywords: Behavioral Economics, Field Experiment, Education, Adult Education

Suggested Citation

Chande, Raj and Luca, Michael and Sanders, Michael and Soon, Xian‐Zhi and Borcan, Oana and Barak Corren, Netta and Linos, Elizabeth and Kirkman, Elspeth and Robinson, Sean, Curbing Adult Student Attrition: Evidence from a Field Experiment (February 1, 2015). Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper No. 15-065. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2563757 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2563757

Raj Chande

Behavioural Insights Team ( email )

London, SW1A 2AS
United Kingdom

Michael Luca (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School - Negotiations, Organizations & Markets Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Boston, MA 02163
United States

HOME PAGE: http://drfd.hbs.edu/fit/public/facultyInfo.do?facInfo=ovr&facId=602417

Michael Sanders

Cabinet Office (UK) - Behavioural Insights Team ( email )

London, SW1A 2AS
United Kingdom

Xian‐Zhi Soon

Behavioural Insights Team ( email )

London, SW1A 2AS
United Kingdom

Oana Borcan

Göteborg University ( email )

Viktoriagatan 30
Goeteborg, 405 30
Sweden

Netta Barak Corren

Harvard Law School ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Hebrew University of Jerusalem ( email )

Mount Scopus
Jerusalem, IL 91905
Israel

Elizabeth Linos

Harvard Kennedy School of Government ( email )

Elspeth Kirkman

Behavioural Insights Team ( email )

London, SW1A 2AS
United Kingdom

Sean Robinson

Behavioural Insights Team ( email )

London, SW1A 2AS
United Kingdom

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