Recruitment, Effort, and Retention Effects of Performance Contracts for Civil Servants: Experimental Evidence from Rwandan Primary Schools

Published in American Economic Review, 2021


This paper reports on a two-tiered experiment designed to separately identify the selection and effort margins of pay-for-performance (P4P). At the recruitment stage, teacher labor markets were randomly assigned to a ‘pay-for-percentile’ or fixed-wage contract. Once recruits were placed, an unexpected, incentive-compatible, school-level re-randomization was performed, so that some teachers who applied for a fixed-wage contract ended up being paid by P4P, and vice versa. By the second year of the study, the within-year effort effect of P4P was 0.16 standard deviations of pupil learning, with the total effect rising to 0.20 standard deviations after allowing for selection.

Other versions

Link to published paper in the American Economic Review

Pre-print 2021 manuscript (pdf)

Pre-print 2021 manuscript, arXiv 2102.00444

Pre-print 2021 manuscript, Williams Economics Working Paper Series

Earlier version appears as World Bank WPS 9395, September 2020, also available as IZA discussion paper 13696 and from SSRN


Data and analysis files: (hosted at ICPSR)


2021 VoxDev blog post on paper and new related work: Selection and incentive effects of teacher performance contracts in Rwanda

2019 Blog coverage by Markus Goldstein on Development Impact: If you pay teachers based on performance do you get better teachers, or do they work harder?

2019 RISE Blog by Clare Leaver and Lant Pritchett: Should “pay for performance” be used for teachers? (With a plea to pause before you answer)

2018 BITSS + Development Impact blog post on the associated pre-analysis plan: Power to the Plan (Development Impact link) (BITSS link)

Policy brief

January 2021 World Bank Evidence to Policy note: RWANDA: Can performance pay for teachers improve students’ learning?

Other information

JEL codes: C93, I21, J45, M52, O15

Pre-analysis plan and trial registry: Leaver, Ozier, Serneels, and Zeitlin 2018. “Recruitment, effort, and retention effects of performance contracts for civil servants: Experimental evidence from Rwandan primary schools.” AEA RCT Registry.

Recommended citation: Leaver, Clare, Owen Ozier, Pieter Serneels, and Andrew Zeitlin. "Recruitment, effort, and retention effects of performance contracts for civil servants: Experimental evidence from Rwandan primary schools." American Economic Review 111, no. 7 (2021): 2213-46.