Institutional influences on education investment and pro-social behaviour

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Embargoed until 2021-10-09
Copyright: Chen, Jie
This thesis consists of three chapters. It studies, as a broad theme, the effectiveness of several institutional changes on individual decision-making based on experimental evidence. Chapter 1 is self-contained, with results purely based on a laboratory experiment. Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 are based on one field experiment in education. Chapter 2 describes the experimental settings and presents the overall results of the experiment, whereas Chapter 3 extends the analysis and focuses on treatment effects on women and men respectively. Chapter 1 shows how reward or punishment opportunities change contributions in a public goods game with 'privileged' members, where 'privilege' indicates that one's per-unit contribution to the public good produces a higher monetary return than is the case for others in the group. The main finding is that reward opportunities strongly increase group contributions in such groups while punishment opportunities do not. Reward also mitigates contribution decay over successive periods and improves social welfare. Chapter 2 mainly studies how rank incentives (i.e., relative performance information) in a milestone-based online assignment system affect students' academic performance. I find that rank incentives increase the likelihood of a student putting more effort in the online assignment. Rank incentives also have positive effects on low-performing students' exam marks while they have negative effects on high-performing students' exam marks. The positive effects seem driven by increased self-perceived stress, increased effort, and decreased procrastination. The negative effects seem driven by increased self-perceived happiness and re-allocation of effort. Chapter 3 studies how rank incentives and milestone information (i.e., information with reference to achievement milestones corresponding to different amounts of points earned) affect men's and women's academic performance differently. Women with access to the rank incentives experience a 0.19 SDs mark decrease in the first midterm, compared to women without this access. In the absence of relative performance information, men with access to the milestone information experience a 0.26 SDs mark increase in the final exam, compared to men without the access. The negative effects on women seem driven by their increased stress level, whereas men's improved exam performance seem driven by increased effort.
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Chen, Jie
Motta, Alberto
Foster, Gigi
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PhD Doctorate
UNSW Faculty
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