Working Paper 14/335 - Abstract

Curbing adult student attrition: Evidence from a field experiment (PDF, 366kB)

Raj Chande , Michael Luca , Michael Sanders , Xian-Zhi Soon , Oana Borcan , Netta Barak-Corren , Elizabeth Linos , Elspeth Kirkman and Sean Robinson

Roughly 20% of adults in the OECD lack basic numeracy and literacy skills. In the UK, many colleges offer fully government subsidized adult education programs to improve these skills. Constructing a unique dataset consisting of weekly attendance records for 1179 students, we find that approximately 25% of learners stop attending these programs in the first ten weeks and that average attendance rates deteriorate by 20% in that time. We implement a large-scale field experiment in which we send encouraging text messages to students. Our initial results show that these simple text messages reduce the proportion of students that stop attending by 36% and lead to a 7% increase in average attendance relative to the control group. The effects on attendance rates persist through the three weeks of available data following the initial intervention.

Keywords: Behavioral Economics, Field Experiment, Education, Adult Education