Discussion paper

DP18735 Empowering Adolescents to Transform Schools: Lessons from a Behavioral Targeting

We test the effectiveness of a behavioral approach designed to empower socioeconomically disadvantaged adolescents. The approach leverages adolescents’ desire for social status and is grounded in the idea that self-persuasion might yield a more robust behavioral change in challenging adolescents than direct lecturing. We enlist socially connected senior students with high emotional intelligence as ``student-teachers'' and entrust them with delivering an empowerment curriculum to their junior peers. Using randomized variation in program implementation, we show that this indirect targeting empowers targeted adolescents, leading them to improve their social environment. The program reduces disciplinary incidents and anti-social behavior among student-teachers and their friendship networks while fostering supportive network ties between senior and junior students. The program also lowers the tolerance for anti-social behavior, measured by the willingness to destroy unfairly gained payoffs in a third-party punishment game. Our study offers a cost-effective way to help disadvantaged adolescents escape neighborhood disadvantages.


Alan, S and E Kubilay (2024), ‘DP18735 Empowering Adolescents to Transform Schools: Lessons from a Behavioral Targeting‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 18735. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp18735