Freakonomics Goes to School and Teaches Us the Right Way to Bribe Kids


The Atlantic, June 19, 2012


A brand new study by Steven D. Levitt (of Freakonomics fame), John A. List, Susanne Neckermann, and Sally Sadoff finds that Chicago students in low-performing schools did better on tests when they were promised money or trophies for their good grades. But it wasn’t as simple as writing a bunch of checks and and waiting for the A’s to pour in. How much money and how you present the rewards makes all the differences.

Without instant money and rewards, many students in these Chicago schools had put forth “low effort on the standardized tests that we study,” the authors write. Why didn’t the students care about good grades? It’s all about the timing of our rewards.

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