New Study by Economist Tom Dee '90 Makes Case for Student Cash Incentives

Alisa Giardinelli

New Study by Economist Tom Dee '90 
Makes Case for Student Cash Incentives

by Alisa Giardinelli
7/14/2009

tom dee '90

Tom Dee '90

In the 1980s, a controversial program in Wisconsin reduced a family’s welfare grant when covered teens failed to go to school. However, studies at the time suggested the program, Learnfare, had no sustained effects on enrollment and attendance. In a new study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), Associate Professor of Economics Tom Dee '90 examines the data and comes to a very different conclusion.

By removing data that was poorly collected, Dee found that the program did have a positive effect on students' attendance, particularly for students who were already classified as dropouts when the study began. As noted in Education Week, Dee found their enrollment increased by 25 percent as a result of the program. Perhaps more relevant, however, are the implications Dee thinks this may have for experimental programs going on today that offer students cash incentives for improved academic performance. more

Dee employs economic principles to study a wide range of education and other social issues, including: teachers, race, and student achievement; civic returns in education; charter schools; Catholic schooling and civic involvement; the fatal effects of speed limits on women and the elderly; and the relationship between gay marriage laws and the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections. Dee joined Swarthmore's faculty in 1999 and is also a faculty research fellow with the NBER in Cambridge, Mass.