Behavioral Nudges Prevent Student Dropouts in the Pandemic

University of Zurich, Department of Economics, Working Paper No. 363, (2021) Revised version

50 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2020 Last revised: 24 May 2021

See all articles by Guilherme Lichand

Guilherme Lichand

University of Zurich - Department of Economics

Julien Christen

University of Zurich

Date Written: May 23, 2021

Abstract

School closures in the pandemic have been shown to increase student dropouts in developing countries by a factor of two or more. Having said that, interventions to motivate students to remain in school until in-person classes return have been overlooked. Using a cluster-randomized control trial in the State of Goiás, Brazil, this paper shows that behavioral nudges sent through text messages directly to students’ phones decreased dropout risk by 26% over the course of the 2020 school year. Additional experiments varied the content of nudges at the student level, randomizing whether messages were framed in terms of gains or losses, and whether they alluded to social pressure. Our findings showcase that behavioral insights can be leveraged to shift developmental trajectories at a critical juncture, but also call into question the applicability of some of those insights in the context of remote learning.

Keywords: Student dropouts; COVID-19; Nudges, Adolescent motivation

JEL Classification: D91, I18, I24, I25

Suggested Citation

Lichand, Guilherme and Christen, Julien, Behavioral Nudges Prevent Student Dropouts in the Pandemic (May 23, 2021). University of Zurich, Department of Economics, Working Paper No. 363, (2021) Revised version, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3724386 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3724386

Guilherme Lichand (Contact Author)

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Zürich
Switzerland

Julien Christen

University of Zurich ( email )

Rämistrasse 71
Zürich, CH-8006
Switzerland

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