Rewarding Commitment to Attend School: A Field Study with Indigenous Australian High School Students

36 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2020

See all articles by Azhar Hussain Potia

Azhar Hussain Potia

University of Queensland

Juliana Silva-Goncalves

The University of Sydney

Benno Torgler

Queensland University of Technology; CREMA; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research)

Uwe Dulleck

Queensland University of Technology - School of Economics and Finance

Date Written: 2019

Abstract

We introduce a novel incentive program aimed at decreasing school absenteeism based on the effect of voluntary promises in motivating desirable behaviour. In contrast to a standard program, in which students receive a reward conditional on having achieved a school attendance rate of at least 90 percent, in the promise program, they receive the reward up front, conditional on their commitment to invest their best efforts to reach the attendance target. We assess the effectiveness of the promise program through a field study involving Indigenous Australian high school students, a population who tends to have lower education achievement and socioeconomic advantage than their non-Indigenous counterparts. We find that the promise program significantly decreased unexplained absences compared to the standard program but that it did not influence overall school absences. Our findings suggest that voluntary promises coupled with small gifts are effective in influencing behaviour of disadvantaged students. At the same time, we need further research on how to best design such programs to achieve positive effects in reducing school absenteeism.

Keywords: school absenteeism, promises, upfront rewards, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students

JEL Classification: I240, I250, I280

Suggested Citation

Potia, Azhar Hussain and Silva-Goncalves, Juliana and Torgler, Benno and Dulleck, Uwe, Rewarding Commitment to Attend School: A Field Study with Indigenous Australian High School Students (2019). CESifo Working Paper No. 8018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3518966

Azhar Hussain Potia (Contact Author)

University of Queensland ( email )

St Lucia
Brisbane, Queensland 4072
Australia

Juliana Silva-Goncalves

The University of Sydney ( email )

University of Sydney
Sydney, NC NSW 2006
Australia

Benno Torgler

Queensland University of Technology ( email )

GPO Box 2434
2 George Street
Brisbane, Queensland 4001
Australia

CREMA

Gellertstrasse 18
Basel
Zurich, CH 8006
Switzerland

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Uwe Dulleck

Queensland University of Technology - School of Economics and Finance ( email )

GPO Box 2434
2 George Street
Brisbane, Queensland 4001
Australia

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