Fischer, Mira (2018). Essays in Behavioral Economics of Education. Experimental and Empirical Studies on Information, Beliefs, and Educational Decisions. PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln.

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This thesis investigates people’s educational decisions. It consists of four research papers that apply a broad range of research methods to different educational settings. All papers have in common that they put students as decision-makers center stage and focus on how they incorporate information into their beliefs and behavior. The classical economic approach to education assumes that people choose their investments in human capital to maximize their lifetime utility. Empirical evidence suggests, however, that people often make educational decisions that may not benefit them in the long run. For example, many students drop out of education but later regret having done so or procrastinate on preparation even for very important exams. In recent years economists have increasingly focused on factors influencing the process of human capital formation that are not captured by the classical economic approach, such as beliefs, preferences and character traits. However, evidence on causal effects of these factors is limited. This dissertation contributes to filling this gap. It focusses on how beliefs about academic ability or the quality of education and relative performance evaluations causally affect students’ educational decisions. The scope of this thesis reaches from an empirical investigation, providing quasi-experimental evidence on the effects of the German universities Excellence Initiative on ability sorting and perceived educational quality, and a randomized field experiment in secondary schools, testing the effects of different types of relative performance information on high-stakes educational outcomes, to economic laboratory experiments, investigating the psychological mechanisms underlying the motivation to invest in human capital. We may in particular gain the following insights: (1) Students respond to signals about a university’s research quality when deciding at which institution to pursue a degree and for this reason policies intended to foster research competition between universities may have side-effects on universities’ quality of admissions. A university’s excellence status also influences student satisfaction ratings but the effect is transient. (2) High stakes educational outcomes may be improved by giving feedback about past performance, especially if it recently decreased, however the timing of feedback is crucial. (3) It is important to distinguish between beliefs in different ability dimensions as fostering some ability beliefs may raise the motivation to learn while fostering others may lower it. (4) People may overweigh ability signals from between-group comparisons, especially when they are negative, and for this reason ability grouping may lead to a decalibration of ability beliefs.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
Fischer, Miramira.fischer@uni-koeln.deUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-81176
Date: 14 March 2018
Language: English
Faculty: Faculty of Management, Economy and Social Sciences
Divisions: Ehemalige Fakultäten, Institute, Seminare > Faculty of Management, Economy and Social Sciences > no entry
Subjects: Economics
Uncontrolled Keywords:
behavioral economics, economics of educationUNSPECIFIED
Date of oral exam: 14 March 2018
NameAcademic Title
Sliwka, DirkProf. Dr.
Irlenbusch, BerndProf. Dr.
Refereed: Yes


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