This study investigates the role of information systems in stimulating energy-efficient behavior in private households. We present the example of Velix, a web portal designed to motivate customers of a utility company to reduce their electricity consumption. In particular, we consider the effectiveness of goal setting functionality and defaults in influencing energy conservation behavior. For this purpose, we use the web portal as a test of the theoretical propositions underlying its design. Based on data collected from a field experiment with 1,791 electricity consumers, we test hypotheses regarding the structural relations between defaults and goals, the impact of defaults and goals on consumption behavior, and the moderating role of feedback on goal choice. Our results confirm the positive impact of goal setting on energy conservation. We show that default goals lead to statistically significant savings by affecting goal choice. However, if the default goals are set too low or too high with respect to a self-set goal, the defaults will detrimentally affect behavior. We also show that feedback on goal attainment moderates the effect of default goals on goal choice. The results extend the knowledge on goal setting and defaults and have implications for the design of effective energy feedback systems. The study’s approach, which combines hypothesis-driven work and design-oriented IS research, could serve as a blueprint for further research endeavors of this kind, particularly with regard to feedback systems based on future smart metering infrastructures.
Our aim is to assess how the number of working-class students entering German universities can effectively be increased. Therefore, we estimate the proportion of students from the working class that would successfully enter university if certain policy interventions were in place to eliminate primary effects (performance differentials between social classes) and/or secondary effects (choice differentials net of performance) at different transition points. We extend previous research by analysing the sequence of transitions between elementary school enrolment and university enrolment and by accounting for the impact that manipulations at earlier transitions have on the performance distribution and size of the student ‘risk-set’ at subsequent transitions. To this end, we develop a novel simulation procedure which seeks to find viable solutions to the shortcomings in the German data landscape. Our findings show that interventions are most effective if they take place early in the educational career. Neutralizing secondary effects at the transition to upper secondary school proves to be the single most effective means of increasing participation rates in tertiary education among working-class students. However, this comes at the expense of lower average performance levels.
Despite educational expansion and decreasing social inequalities in access to upper secondary education, increasing social inequalities can be found in the transition from upper secondary to tertiary education in Germany. Drawing on Boudon’s distinction between primary and secondary effects of social origin, we describe two potential sources which can be considered responsible for the observed pattern: first, an increase in performance differentials between upper secondary graduates from different social backgrounds, and second, a heterogenization of educational motivations and post-secondary plans among upper secondary graduates. We test these hypotheses with a series of datasets of upper secondary graduation cohorts from 1976 to 2002, provided by the German Higher Education Information System and apply a decomposition method in order to test the development of the contribution of various measures of primary and secondary effects. We find that primary effects play only a negligible role for the explanation of increasing social inequalities over time, whereas the growing class-specific differences in the transition to tertiary education are primarily due to increasing secondary effects.