Incentives to Learn

We report results from a randomized evaluation of a merit scholarship program for adolescent girls in Kenya. Girls who scored well on academic exams had their school fees paid and received a cash grant for school supplies. Girls eligible for the scholarship showed significant gains in academic exam scores (average gain 0.12-0.19 standard deviations) and these gains persisted following the competition. There is also evidence of positive program externalities on learning: boys, who were ineligible for the awards, also showed sizeable average test gains, as did girls with low pretest scores, who were unlikely to win. Both student and teacher school attendance increased in the program schools. We discuss implications both for understanding the nature of educational production functions and for the policy debate surrounding merit scholarships.

Kremer, Miguel and Thornton (2009)


Rural: Busia and Teso districtsRCTMerit scholarships awarded to 6th grade girls.Test scores increased by 0.19 standard deviations. Teacher attendance increased by 4.8 percentage points (by 7.6 percentage points in the 6th grade).