Enhancing the Efficacy of Teacher Incentives through Loss Aversion: A Field Experiment
Domestic attempts to use financial incentives for teachers to increase student achievement have been ineffective. In this paper, we demonstrate that exploiting the power of loss aversion--teachers are paid in advance and asked to give back the money if their students do not improve sufficiently--increases math test scores between 0.201 (0.076) and 0.398 (0.129) standard deviations. This is equivalent to increasing teacher quality by more than one standard deviation. A second treatment arm, identical to the loss aversion treatment but implemented in the standard fashion, yields smaller and statistically insignificant results. This suggests it is loss aversion, rather than other features of the design or population sampled, that leads to the stark differences between our findings and past research.
We are grateful to Tom Amadio and the Chicago Heights teachers union. Matt Davis, Sean Golden, Phuong Ta and Wooju Lee provided exceptional research assistance. Financial support from the Broad Foundation (Fryer) and the Kenneth and Anne Griffin Foundation is gratefully acknowledged. The usual caveat applies. Financial support from the Broad Foundation (Fryer) and the Kenneth and Anne Griffin Foundation is gratefully acknowledged. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.