Bergman, Peter, Jessica Lasky-Fink, and Todd Rogers. "Simplification and Defaults Affect Adoption and Impact of Technology, But Decision Makers Do Not Realize This." HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP17-021, June 2017 (Updated July 2018).
A field experiment examines how enrollment defaults affect the take-up and impact of an education technology (N=6,976). It shows that a standard (high-friction) opt-in process induces extremely low parent take-up (<1%), while a simplified process yields higher take-up (11%), but both fail to reliably improve student achievement. Automatically enrolling parents increases adoption (95%) and improves student achievement—e.g., one in four students does not fail a class they would have otherwise failed. Surveys show automatic enrollment is uncommon, and its impact is underestimated: District leaders overestimate take-up under standard opt-in processes by about 40 percentage points and underestimate take-up under automatic enrollment by 29 percentage points. After learning the actual take-up rates, district leaders report being willing to pay substantially more for the technology when implemented under automatic enrollment than standard opt-in.