Nudges Don’t Work When the Benefits Are Ambiguous: Evidence from a High-Stakes Education Program Sep 01, 2020 By Benjamin CastlemanFrancis X. MurphyRichard W. PattersonWilliam L. Skimmyhorn Nudges Don’t Work When the Benefits Are Ambiguous: Evidence from a High-Stakes Education Program The Post-9/11 GI Bill allows service members to transfer generous education benefits to a dependent. We run a large scale experiment that encourages service members to consider the transfer option among a population that includes individuals for whom the transfer benefits are clear and individuals for whom the net-benefits are significantly more ambiguous. We find no impact of a one-time email about benefits transfer among service members for whom we predict considerable ambiguity in the action, but sizeable impacts among service members for whom education benefits transfer is far less ambiguous. Our work contributes to the nascent literature investigating conditions when low-touch nudges at scale may be effective. Link to Paper Areas of focus Education UVA partners EdPolicyWorks: Center for Education Policy and Workforce Competitiveness Benjamin Castleman Ben Castleman is an Associate Professor of Education and Public Policy at the University of Virginia. Read full bio Francis X. Murphy Richard W. Patterson William L. Skimmyhorn Related Content Benjamin Castleman Stacking the Deck for Employment Success: Labor Market Returns to Stackable Credentials Research With rapid technological transformations to the labor market along with COVID-19 related economic disruptions, many working adults return to college to obtain additional training or credentials. Using a comparative individual fixed effects strategy and an administrative panel dataset of enrollment and employment in Virginia, we provide the first causal estimates of credential “stacking” among working adults. Pushing College Advising Forward: Experimental Evidence on Intensive Advising and College Success Research Growing experimental evidence demonstrates that low-touch informational, nudge, and virtual advising interventions are ineffective at improving postsecondary educational outcomes for economically-disadvantaged students at scale. Intensive in-person college advising programs are a considerably higher-touch and more resource intensive strategy; some programs provide students with dozen of hours of individualized assistance starting in high school and continuing through college, and can cost thousands of dollars per student served. Castleman and Colleague Shed Light on Rewards of 'Credential Stacking' News The impact of “credential stacking” among community college students had long been of interest to Batten’s Ben Castleman and his colleague Katharine Meyer, but they became even more curious about it during the pandemic. UVA Researchers Offer Data on One of Higher Education’s Most Dramatic Shifts News In a new study, Batten’s Ben Castleman, along with his collaborators Gaby Lohner and Kelli Bird from the UVA School of Education and Human Development, investigated how the shift to online learning during COVID-19 has affected student success.