I am an Assistant Professor of Economics and Education at Teachers College,  Columbia University. My research focuses on information problems in human capital development and using randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to find low-cost, scalable interventions that improve education outcomes. 

                                                    Peter Bergman


Parent-Child Information Frictions and Human Capital Investment: Evidence from a Field Experiment Investment (Revise and Resubmit, Journal of Political Economy)

Abstract: This paper uses a field experiment to answer how information frictions between parents and their children affect the inputs to human capital formation and how much reducing these frictions can improve student achievement. I model the interaction between parents and their child as a persuasion game with monitoring and incentives. I show that parents have upwardly-biased beliefs about their child's effort, which is associated with lower performance. In Los Angeles, a random sample of parents was provided detailed information about their child's academic progress. More information allows parents to induce more effort from their children, which translates into significant gains in achievement. However, additional information also changes parents' beliefs about their child's effort, which spurs further parental monitoring. Relative to other interventions, additional information to parents potentially produces gains in achievement at a low cost.

Successful Schools and Risky Behaviors Among Low-Income Adolescents
(forthcoming, Pediatrics. with Mitchell Wong, Karen Coller, Rebecca Dudovitz, David Kennedy, Richard Buddin, Martin Shapiro, Sheryl Kataoka, Arleen Brown, Chi Hong Tseng, and Paul Chung)

School Integration and Educational Attainment: Evidence from a Randomized Desegregation Program

Abstract: This paper studies the long-run impact of a court-ordered desegregation ruling on education outcomes. This ruling mandates that seven school districts, which serve higher-income, predominantly-white families, accept a fixed number of minority elementary school students each year who apply to transfer from a nearby, predominantly minority school district. The fixed number of slots are allocated to families via lottery. The offer to transfer increases the number of students who enroll in college by 7 percentage points. This result is driven by greater attendance to two-year and public colleges, though there are substantial heterogeneous effects. Effects are substantially larger for Black and male students.

(Updated) The Effects of Making Performance Information Public: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from Los Angeles Teachers

(with Matt Hill) CESifo Working Paper 5383.
The publication of performance ratings has ambiguous implications for performance. This paper uses school-district data and discontinuities in publication to study the effects of publically rating teachers. Relative to unpublished teachers, we find that high-performing students sort into classrooms with highly-rated teachers. Conditional on publication, ratings labels induce sorting as well as teacher attrition: low-rated teachers teach lower-performing students and are more likely to leave the district in subsequent years relative to higher-rated teachers. There is no effect of publication on test scores and heterogeneous effects by ratings labels that may increase achievement gaps between low and high performing students.

Technology Adoption in Education: Usage, Spillovers and Student Achievement
Abstract: Previous research shows that that providing detailed information to parents about their child's academic performance can significantly improve student achievement. Many school districts accomplish this at scale via technology that places student information online, but the adoption of this technology by parents is unknown. This paper uses data from a Learning Management System operating in several hundred schools and a two-stage experiment across 59 schools to study the adoption of this technology by parents along extensive and intensive margins, as well as spillovers and effects on student outcomes. A quarter of parents ever use this technology; adoption follows an S-shape; significant spillovers occur along intensive but not extensive margins; and student grades improve as a result.

Research in Progress

Parent Skills and Information Asymmetries: Experimental Evidence from Home Visits and Text Messages in Middle and High Schools

(with Chana Edmond-Verly and Nicole Notario-Risk)
Description: This paper studies the ability to change student outcomes by leveraging community-based organizations to resolve information problems and to improve parent skills. We conducted a three-arm randomized control in which community-based organizations provided information regularly to families about their child's academic progress in one arm and added home visits to improve parent knowhow in a separate arm. GPA improved, and math and English test scores improved for the home-visit group. There are large effects on short-run retention: a 4 percentage point (40%) increase in the likelihood students remain in district.

The Impact of Tax Credit and Financial Aid Information on College Outcomes: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment

(with Jeff Denning and Day Manoli)
Description: An RCT designed to improve college enrollment and persistence for 200,000+ students in Texas by providing and re-framing education tax benefit and FAFSA information via the public-college application platform in the state of Texas.

Organizational Policy on Technology Adoption in Education: Evidence from a Field Experiment

(with Todd Rogers)
Description: Testing how defaults affect short run and longer-run take up and efficacy of an automated-text message system alerting parents to their child's missing assignments, grades and absences.

Does Information on School Quality Impact Residential Choice? Evidence from a Nation-wide Field Experiment

(with Eric Chan, Matt Hill and Heather Schwartz)
Description: A nationwide-RCT adding school quality information onto low-income housing rental websites and adjusting default search frames to help 10,000+ families move to areas with better schools.

Engaging Parents as a Means to Address Educational and Health Behavioral Outcomes: Evidence from a Field Experiment

(with Rebecca Dudovitz, Anne Escaron and Mitchell Wong)
Description: Exploring whether engaging parents in their chid's education reduces teens' risky behaviors.



Contact Information

Email: bergman [at] tc [dot] columbia [dot] edu

Phone: (212) 678-3932

Office: 417 Thorndike

Curriculum Vitae (pdf)


CNN: Parental Involvement Overrated?

NY Times: Helping the Poor in Education



Columbia Committee on the Economics of Education