Date of this Version



Laura Perna


College access, behavioral economics, nudge, higher education, loss aversion, loss framing


The vast majority of low-income, high-achieving high school students in the U.S. either do not apply to college or undermatch by attending less selective institutions than those they are qualified to attend. Previous research has demonstrated that behavioral “nudges” can be an effective and low-cost method of influencing students’ application behavior and encouraging them to enroll in selective institutions. This study contributes to this existing body of literature by examining whether framing college earnings premium information as a loss causes low-income high school students in Chicago to report greater likelihood of applying to college than when the same information is framed as a gain. I find that there are no significant differences between the gain and loss conditions, but that students in both conditions report greater likelihood of applying to a highly selective college as compared to students in the control, where no earnings premium information was provided.



Date Posted: 20 June 2016


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