But mommm! How do students and parents differ when choosing colleges?

Raised of $1,200 Goal
Ended on 5/21/14
Campaign Ended
  • $195
  • 17%
  • Finished
    on 5/21/14

About This Project

Figuring out how to get students into and through college is important for those students and the strength of the economy. But to help inform their decisions, we need to know what motivates them. This experiment examines what students and their parents want out of college, and how their preferences differ so the message can be better targeted.

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What is the context of this research?

This paper joins a long line of research that asks the question: "Why do people make the educational choices that they do?" Research has often focused on financial incentives, but recent work has paid more attention to how students respond to a variety of incentives, such as social life or a good academic environment (see, for example, Jacob, McCall, and Stange 2013).

There are two pieces missing from this research agenda: first, it is difficult to find random experimental variation in these factors, which would help us understand them. Second, prior studies don't take into account how preferences differ between students and parents, who both have a say in the decision. I bring in an experimental approach typically used by marketers to understand what people want.

What is the significance of this project?

The decision of whether and how to continue one's education after high school is one of the mot important that many people will make in the modern United States. Policy makers are interested in helping people to make that decision and reach their goals, but if they don't know what people will respond to, the policies will head down the wrong road.

For example, the College Scorecard system being implemented by the Obama administration assumes that college choices respond strongly to financial incentives. But this appears to not be the case for students (see, for example, Huntington-Klein 2014 or Stinebrickner and Stinebrickner 2014). Do parents respond more strongly? Who needs to hear this information? This work can improve efforts to increase college attainment.

What are the goals of the project?

  1. I will carry out an online choice experiment with a large sample and experimental variation over five college attributes. Participants will get a survey where they repeatedly choose between several hypothetical colleges, where each college has different strong and weak areas
  2. I will calculate how strong preferences are for different college attributes
  3. I will determine how these preferences differ between choices made by parents and those made by children
  4. The results will be made widely available and submitted for publication in an economics journal


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Every dollar of your contribution will go towards the payment of human participants. We will use the SocialSci.com service to recruit and compensate respondents for participating in the experiment. Online surveys avoid the costs of overhead and training associated with in-person experiments.

Meet the Team

Nick Huntington-Klein
Nick Huntington-Klein

Team Bio

Growing up around teachers and professors, I've always been passionate about making sure that students are able to get the best education possible. I came to economics and my particular research agenda through an interest in how people make choices and how this shapes our lives.

I'm a big ol' geek who loves card games, math, and pop music history.

All contributors above $100 will be thanked in the paper, if they like.

Nick Huntington-Klein

I'm nearly finished (fingers crossed) with my Ph.D. in the Economics department at the University of Washington. My research focuses on education, in particular higher education, and issues relating to information and uncertainty. I'm always looking for new methods to port into my field, and ways to gather new and interesting data.

Project Backers

  • 4Backers
  • 17%Funded
  • $195Total Donations
  • $48.75Average Donation
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