Productivity Versus Motivation in Adolescent Human Capital Production: Evidence from a Structurally-Motivated Field Experiment

54 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2020 Last revised: 30 Dec 2021

See all articles by Christopher Cotton

Christopher Cotton

Queen's University, Department of Economics

Brent Hickman

Washington University in St. Louis - John M. Olin Business School

John A. List

University of Chicago - Department of Economics

Joseph Price

Brigham Young University

Sutanuka Roy

Australian National University (ANU)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 2020

Abstract

We leverage a field experiment across three distinct school districts to identify key pieces of a structural model of adolescent human capital production. Our focus is inspired by the contemporary psychology of education literature, which expresses learning as a function of the ratio of the time spent on learning to the time needed to learn. By capturing two crucial student-level unobservables—which we denote as academic efficiency (turning inputs into outputs) and time preference (motivation)—our field experiment lends insights into the underpinnings of adolescent skill formation and provides a novel view of how to lessen racial and gender achievement gaps. One general insight is that students who are falling behind their peers, whether correlated to race, gender, or school district, are doing so because of academic efficiency rather than time preference. We view this result, and others found in our data, as fundamental to practitioners, academics, and policymakers interested in designing strategies to provide equal opportunities to students.

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Suggested Citation

Cotton, Christopher and Hickman, Brent and List, John A. and Price, Joseph and Roy, Sutanuka, Productivity Versus Motivation in Adolescent Human Capital Production: Evidence from a Structurally-Motivated Field Experiment (October 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w27995, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3718907

Christopher Cotton (Contact Author)

Queen's University, Department of Economics ( email )

Dunning Hall 230
Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://www.christophercotton.ca

Brent Hickman

Washington University in St. Louis - John M. Olin Business School ( email )

One Brookings Drive
Campus Box 1133
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
United States

John A. List

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Joseph Price

Brigham Young University ( email )

130 FOB
Provo, UT 84604
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://economics.byu.edu/directory/joseph-p-price

Sutanuka Roy

Australian National University (ANU) ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601
Australia

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