Why Do College Going Interventions Work?

Scott E. Carrell, Bruce Sacerdote

NBER Working Paper No. 19031
Issued in May 2013
NBER Program(s):   ED   LS   PE

We present evidence from a recent field experiment in college coaching/ mentoring. We find surprisingly large impacts on college attendance and persistence. We test several theories as to why a short lived intervention has large impacts on lifetime human capital investments. We do not find evidence that the treatment effect derives from simple behavioral mistakes or a lack of easily obtained information. Instead our mentoring program substitutes for the potentially expensive and often missing ingredient of skilled parental or teacher time and encouragement. Our positive effects are concentrated among students who do not rely on parental or teacher support for college applications and who are less extraverted. Our treatments that provide financial incentives or information alone do not appear to be effective. For women, assignment to our mentoring treatment yields a 15 percentage point increase in the college going rate while treatment on the treated estimates are 30 percentage points (against a control complier mean rate of 43 percent). We find much smaller treatment effects for men and the difference in treatment effects across genders is partially explained by the differential in self-reported labor market opportunities.

download in pdf format
   (1024 K)

email paper

This paper was revised on April 15, 2015

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19031

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Hoxby and Avery w18586 The Missing "One-Offs": The Hidden Supply of High-Achieving, Low Income Students
Avery w19562 Evaluation of the College Possible Program: Results from a Randomized Controlled Trial
Bettinger and Baker w16881 The Effects of Student Coaching in College: An Evaluation of a Randomized Experiment in Student Mentoring
Bettinger, Long, Oreopoulos, and Sanbonmatsu w15361 The Role of Simplification and Information in College Decisions: Results from the H&R Block FAFSA Experiment
Oreopoulos and Dunn w18551 Information and College Access: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us