Why Do College Going Interventions Work?

Scott E. Carrell, Bruce Sacerdote

NBER Working Paper No. 19031
Issued in May 2013, Revised in April 2015
NBER Program(s):Economics of Education, Labor Studies, Public Economics

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.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19031

Published: Scott Carrell & Bruce Sacerdote, 2017. "Why Do College-Going Interventions Work?," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, vol 9(3), pages 124-151. citation courtesy of

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