When the Effects of Informational Interventions Are Driven by Salience -- Evidence from School Parents in Brazil
128 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2020 Last revised: 24 Jan 2022
Date Written: January 21, 2022
Informing parents about their children’s school truancy has been shown to improve educational outcomes. Is that because information leads parents to merely update beliefs in the right direction, and act on more accurate beliefs? Or, alternatively, is it to a large extent because it increases the salience of their children’s school life, leading parents’ to monitor students to a greater extent regardless of beliefs – and even to collect decision-relevant information themselves? To study this question, we randomly assigned parents of 9th graders in Brazil to either an information group, who received text messages with weekly data on their child’s attendance and school effort in math classes, or a salience group, who received messages that tried to redirect their attention to math classes without child-specific information. We find that information made parents more accurate about student attendance, and had large impacts on their test scores and grade promotion relative to the control group. Even though salience messages, in contrast, did not make parents more accurate about attendance levels, learning outcomes in the salience group improved by at least as much. Why? We show that both interventions led parents to monitor their children school effort to a greater extent; in effect, all treated parents became more accurate about changes in their children’s grades over time, relative to the control group, consistent with independent information acquisition as part of higher-intensity monitoring. Evidence from an additional experiment that sent salience messages not specific to math classes, randomizing the number of messages sent per week, documents that parents set monitoring effort subject to attentional constraints. Our results have implications for the design and evaluation of informational interventions, above and beyond education.
Keywords: Information; Salience; Inattention
JEL Classification: C93, D83, D91, I25, I31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation