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The Choice Architecture of School Choice Websites
The authors conducted a randomized factorial experiment to determine how displaying school information to parents in different ways affects what schools they choose for their children in a hypothetical school district. In a sample of 3,500 low-income parents of school-aged children, a small design manipulation, such as changing the default order in which schools were presented, induced meaningful changes in the types of schools selected. Other design choices such as using icons to represent data, instead of graphs or just numbers, or presenting concise summaries instead of detailed displays, also led parents to choose schools with higher academic performance. They also examined effects on parents’ understanding of the information and their self-reported satisfaction and ease of use. In some cases, there were trade-offs. For example, representing data using only numbers maximized understanding, but adding graphs maximized satisfaction at the expense of understanding.