Abstract

We study the effect of providing relative performance feedback information on performance, when individuals are rewarded according to their absolute performance. A natural experiment that took place in a high school offers an unusual opportunity to test this effect in a real-effort setting. For one year only, students received information that allowed them to know whether they were performing above (below) the class average as well as the distance from this average. We exploit a rich panel data set and find that the provision of this information led to an increase of 5% in students' grades. Moreover, the effect was significant for the whole distribution. However, once the information was removed, the effect disappeared. To rule out the concern that the effect may be artificially driven by teachers within the school, we verify our results using national level exams (externally graded) for the same students, and the effect remains.