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Todd Pugatch

Moussa Blimpo, Todd Pugatch.

The persistently high employment share of the informal sector makes entrepreneurship a necessity for youth in many developing countries. We exploit exogenous variation in the implementation of Rwanda’s entrepreneurship education reform in secondary schools to evaluate its effect on student economic outcomes up to three years after graduation. Using a randomized controlled trial, we evaluated a three-year intensive training for entrepreneurship teachers, finding pedagogical changes as intended and increased entrepreneurial activity among students. In this paper, we tracked students following graduation and found that increased entrepreneurship persisted one year later, in 2019. Students from treated schools were six percentage points more likely to be entrepreneurs, an increase of 19 percent over the control mean. However, gains in entrepreneurship faded after three years, in 2021. Employment was six percentage points lower in the treatment group. By some measures, income and profits were lower in the treatment group, with no robust differences in these outcomes overall. Lower incomes and profits were concentrated among marginal students induced into entrepreneurship by the program. Youth entrepreneurship programs may therefore steer some participants away from their comparative advantage. Nonetheless, the program increased university enrollment, suggesting the potential for higher long run returns.

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Gautam Anand, Aishwarya Atluri, Lee Crawfurd, Todd Pugatch, Ketki Sheth.

Improving school quality in low and middle income countries (LMICs) is a global priority. One way to improve quality may be to improve the management skills of school leaders. In this systematic review, we analyze the impact of interventions targeting school leaders' management practices on student learning. We begin by describing the characteristics and responsibilities of school leaders using data from large, multi-country surveys. Second, we review the literature and conduct a meta-analysis of the causal effect of school management interventions on student learning, using 39 estimates from 20 evaluations. We estimate a statistically significant improvement in student learning of 0.04 standard deviations. We show that effect sizes are not related to program scale or intensity. We complement the meta-analysis by identifying common limitations to program effectiveness through a qualitative assessment of the studies included in our review. We find three main factors which mitigate program effectiveness: 1) low take-up; 2) lack of incentives or structure for implementation of recommendations; and 3) the lengthy causal chain linking management practices to student learning. Finally, to assess external validity of our review, we survey practitioners to compare characteristics between evaluated and commonly implemented programs. Our findings suggest that future work should focus on generating evidence on the marginal effect of common design elements in these interventions, including factors that promote school leader engagement and accountability.

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Todd Pugatch, Elizabeth Schroeder, Nicholas Wilson.

We design a commitment contract for college students, "Study More Tomorrow," and conduct a randomized control trial testing a model of its demand. The contract commits students to attend peer tutoring if their midterm grade falls below a pre-specified threshold. The contract carries a financial penalty for noncompliance, in contrast to other commitment devices for studying tested in the literature. We find demand for the contract, with take-up of 10% among students randomly assigned a contract offer. Contract demand is not higher among students randomly assigned to a lower contract price, plausibly because a lower contract price also means a lower commitment benefit of the contract. Students with the highest perceived utility for peer tutoring have greater demand for commitment, consistent with our model. Contrary to the model's predictions, we fail to find evidence of increased demand among present-biased students or among those with higher self-reported tendency to procrastinate. Our results show that college students are willing to pay for study commitment devices. The sources of this demand do not align fully with behavioral theories, however.

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Todd Pugatch, Paul Thompson.

Can public university honors programs deliver the benefits of selective undergraduate education within otherwise nonselective institutions? We evaluate the impact of admission to the Honors College at Oregon State University, a large nonselective public university. Admission to the Honors College depends heavily on a numerical application score. Nonlinearities in admissions probabilities as a function of this score allow us to compare applicants with similar scores, but different admissions outcomes, via a fuzzy regression kink design. The first stage is strong, with takeup of Honors College programming closely following nonlinearities in admissions probabilities. To estimate the causal effect of Honors College admission on human capital formation, we use these nonlinearities in the admissions function as instruments, combined with course-section fixed effects to account for strategic course selection. Honors College admission increases course grades by 0.10 grade points on the 0-4 scale, or 0.14 standard deviations. Effects are concentrated at the top of the course grade distribution. Previous exposure to Honors sections of courses in the same subject is a leading potential channel for increased grades. However, course grades of first-generation students decrease in response to Honors admission, driven by low performance in natural science courses. Results suggest that selective Honors programs can accelerate skill acquisition for high-achieving students at public universities, but not all students benefit from Honors admission.

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Jeanne Lafortune, Todd Pugatch, José Tessada, Diego Ubfal.

We study the short-run effects of a gamified online entrepreneurship training offered to high school students in Rwanda during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using a randomized controlled trial, we estimate sizeable effects of the 6-week training on entrepreneurial activity. One month after the training, participants in schools offered the training were much more likely to own a business than participants in control schools. The training induced students to participate more actively in their school's business club, to undertake more business-oriented actions, to improve their business practices, and to interact more with other youth and family members about their business ideas. We hypothesize that the training might have motivated treated students to sustain their business activities during the COVID-19 crisis.

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Todd Pugatch, Elizabeth Schroeder.

We assess whether a light-touch intervention can increase socioeconomic and racial diversity in undergraduate Economics. We randomly assigned over 2,200 students a message with basic information about the Economics major; the basic message combined with an emphasis on the rewarding careers or financial returns associated with the major; or no message. Messages increased the proportion of first generation or underrepresented minority (URM) students majoring in Economics by five percentage points. This effect size was sufficient to reverse the gap in Economics majors between first generation/URM students and students not in these groups. Effect sizes were larger and more precise for better-performing students and first generation students. Extrapolating to the full sample, the treatment would double the proportion of first generation and underrepresented minority students majoring in Economics.

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