HKS Authors

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A field experiment (N?=?6976) examines how enrollment defaults affect adoption and impact of an education technology that sends weekly automated alerts on students’ academic progress to parents. We show that a standard (high-friction) opt-in process induces extremely low parent take-up (1%), while a simplified process yields higher enrollment (11%). Yet, with such low take-up, both fail to improve average student achievement. Meanwhile, automatically enrolling parents increases take-up to 95% and improves student achievement as measured by GPA and course passing. The GPA of students whose parents were automatically enrolled increased by an average of 0.06 points, and one in four students did 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 by standard opt-in processes.


Bergman, Peter, Jessica Lasky-Fink, and Todd Rogers. "Simplification and Defaults Affect Adoption and Impact of Technology, but Decision Makers do not Realize It." Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 158 (May 2020): 66-79.