Labor Seminars Amsterdam

Samuel Berlinski (Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), United States)
Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Schools around the world routinely collect high frequency data on student outcomes like absenteeism, grades, and student conduct, all strong predictors of grade repetition and school dropout. Yet parents rarely have access to these data in real time. We test whether a program of sending these data to parents using high  frequency text messaging improves education outcomes in a sample of 1,500 students in eight elementary schools in a low-income region of Chile. After four months, treated students had significantly higher math grades, improved attendance, a lower prevalence of bad behaviors, and were less likely to fail the grade at the end of the year. We find some evidence of positive spillovers from having more students (randomly) treated in the same classroom. Treatment narrowed parent-school information gaps and treated parents reported a higher willingness to pay for continuing the messaging program at follow up. Our results suggest that poor communication between parents and schools may be an important barrier to improving educational attainment. Using low-cost technology to deliver existing data on student grades, attendance and behavior at higher frequency could significantly raise human capital attainment down the line.