AEFP 45th Annual Conference

Toward a Meaningful Impact through Research, Policy & Practice

March 19-21, 2020

Attendance incentives and the phantom menace

Bernardo Lara, University of Talca,

The provision of monetary incentives is a popular policy to increase a desired behavior. However, they can be also subject to manipulation. In this paper we study the institutional heterogeneity in manipulation of incentives. In particular, we analyze data from the universal (pre)school voucher Chile, a country where payments are linked to attendance and that has a wide heterogeneity of institutions. Using as an unexpected event the a government's inspection to attendance registries, we find that pre-K institutions over-report attendance more than 10% and K12 institutions over-report more than 5%. More importantly, we also estimate how such over-reporting varies across institutions. We find that for-profit motives, low achievement, and low socioeconomic status are relevant predictors of the over-reporting levels. These findings are a warning about manipulation of incentives, particularly among certain types of institutions.



Very interesting paper! What is the cumulative effect on revenues these over reports have on Chilean educational spending?

2.2% of GDP is given using attendance as a parameter. That means that 10% of over-reporting of attendance is equivalent to 0.2% of GDP per year (a lot of money).

Given your evidence on over-reporting, how could money be allocated in a way that targets more money to schools serving more students but removes the incentive to overstate enrollment? Are there any lessons from the literature on special education funding?

This is fascinating. Two things: 1) It's worth discussing what Chile might do about this over-reporting. SHould the incentive be scrapped entirely? Or should inspections be ramped up and penalties attached to over-reporting? 2) I love fun titles but this one isn't very descriptive of what you're doing. Make it even more informative!

Really interesting! Any thoughts on how incentivize schools to improve attendance in a way that doesn't lead to misreporting? Any other less manipulatable metrics you can think of that would accomplish the same goal?

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