Measuring Success in Education: The Role of Effort on the Test Itself

Posted: 14 May 2019

See all articles by John A. List

John A. List

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Uri Gneezy

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Rady School of Management

Jeffrey A. Livingston

Bentley University - Department of Economics

Xiangdong Qin

Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) - Antai College of Economics and Management

Sally Sadoff

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Rady School of Management

Yang Xu

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business - Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 2019

Abstract

U.S. students often rank poorly on standardized tests that estimate and compare educational achievements. We investigate whether this might reflect not only differences in ability but also differences in effort on the test. We experimentally offer students incentives to put forth effort in two U.S. high schools and four Shanghai high schools. U.S. students improve performance substantially in response to incentives, while Shanghai students – who are top performers on assessments – do not. These results raise the possibility that ranking countries based on low-stakes assessments may not reflect only differences in ability, but also motivation to perform well on the test.

Keywords: education, testing, measurement, effort

Suggested Citation

List, John A. and Gneezy, Uri and Livingston, Jeffrey A. and Qin, Xiangdong and Sadoff, Sally and Xu, Yang, Measuring Success in Education: The Role of Effort on the Test Itself (April 2019). University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper No. 2019-66, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3386365

John A. List (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Uri Gneezy

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Rady School of Management ( email )

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Jeffrey A. Livingston

Bentley University - Department of Economics ( email )

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Xiangdong Qin

Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) - Antai College of Economics and Management ( email )

No.535 Fahuazhen Road
Shanghai Jiao Tong University
Shanghai, Shanghai 200052
China

Sally Sadoff

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Rady School of Management ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Rady School of Management
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States

Yang Xu

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business - Economics ( email )

Graduate School of Business
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Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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