Mira Fischer



I am a Ph.D. candidate in Economics at the University of Cologne. I am on the job market and will be available for interviews at the 2018 ASSA meeting in Philadelphia.

My research interests are in education, labor markets, organizations, and public policy. I use lab and field experiments as well as analysis of survey and administrative data to study institutional determinants of changes in people's beliefs and behavior, and how these affect individual and social outcomes.



You may find my CV here.





University of Cologne

Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences

office: +49 221 470 6311



Research Papers

JOB-MARKET PAPER: Effects of Timing and Reference Frame of Feedback: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Secondary Schools, with Valentin Wagner
Information about past performance has been found to sometimes improve and sometimes worsen subsequent performance. We hypothesize that two factors in particular might contribute to explaining this puzzle: which aspect of one's past performance the information refers to and when the information is revealed. In a field experiment in secondary schools, students received information about their absolute rank in the last math exam (level feedback), their change in ranks between the second last and the last math exam (change feedback), or no feedback. Feedback was given either 1-3 days (early) or immediately before the final math exam of the semester (late). We find that level feedback and negative change feedback significantly improve outcomes in the final exam when given early but tend to decrease outcomes when given late. As our results show that feedback has positive effects on students' motivational beliefs but negative effects on their emotions, we reason that when feedback is given late, negative emotional effects may dominate positive incentive effects of feedback.

Confidence in Knowledge or Confidence in the Ability to Learn: An Experiment on the Causal Effects of Beliefs on Motivation, with Dirk Sliwka
(conditionally accepted at Games and Economic Behavior)

Previous research has shown that feedback about past performance has ambiguous effects on subsequent performance. We argue that feedback affects beliefs in different dimensions – namely beliefs about the level of human capital and beliefs about the ability to learn – and this may explain some of the ambiguous effects. We experimentally study the causal effects of an exogenously administered change in beliefs in both of these dimensions on the motivation to learn. We find that confidence in the ability to learn raises incentives, while confidence in the level of human capital lowers incentives for individuals with high levels of human capital.

Salience of Ability Grouping and Biased Belief Formation
Recent research in economics has found that a higher ordinal rank within one's class affects subsequent skill acquisition positively and has linked this finding to the “big-fish-little-pond-effect”, a popular proposition in psychology claiming that assignment to a peer group with lower skills increases one's confidence in academic ability. Findings from a lab experiment suggest that salience of the group assignment mechanism matters for how ability grouping affects ability beliefs. If the assignment mechanism is non-salient, it does not matter for subjects' confidence whether they are assigned to the weaker or the stronger group, however, when the group assignment mechanism is salient, weaker group assignment makes people less confident. Subjects are on average less confident when the group assignment mechanism is salient than when it is non-salient. This is found to be the case due to weaker group assignment making people more underconfident than stronger group assignment making people overconfident, indicating that people overweigh negative information as compared to positive information. These findings may help to understand the effects of ability grouping in the field and may inform the design of educational and workplace environments.


Support for Free-market Policies and Reforms: Does the Field of Study Influence Students’ Political Attitudes?” (with B. Kauder, N. Potrafke, and H.W. Ursprung), European Journal of Political Economy, 48, (2017):180-197

Effects of German Universities’ Excellence Initiative on Ability Sorting of Students and perceptions of Educational Quality” (with P. Kampkötter), Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, 173(4), (2017): 662-687

Work in Progress

Teacher Ratings and Academic Development (based on the National Pupil Database), with Alex Bryson, Lucy Stokes and David Wilkinson

Stress and Academic Performance (field experiment), with Lea Cassar and Vanessa Valero
Increasing Cooperation in Polarized Groups (lab experiment)

Side-effects of Strategic Information Revelation (lab experiment), with Thomas de Haan



Contributions to Education Policy


Fischer, M. & Geis, W.: Bestimmungsgrößen der Bildungsmobilität in Deutschland, IW-Trends, 1/2013 [Determinants of educational mobility in Germany, IW-Trends – Quarterly for Empirical Economic Research of the Cologne Inst. for Econ. Research]


Anger, C., Fischer, M. Geis, W., Lotz, S., Plünnecke A. & Schmidt, J.: Gesamtwirtschaftliche Effekte einer Ganztagsbetreuung von Kindern von Alleinerziehenden, Gutachten des Instituts der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln in Kooperation mit dem Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend (BMFSFJ) und dem Deutschen Roten Kreuz, 2012 [Macroeconomic effects of day care for children of single parents, Report to the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth and the German Red Cross]


Anger, C., Esselmann, I., Fischer & M. Plünnecke, A.: Bildungsmonitor 2012. Infrastruktur verbessern – Teilhabe sichern – Wachstumskräfte stärken, Forschungsbericht des Instituts der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln im Auftrag der Initiative Neue Soziale Marktwirtschaft, 2012 [Education Monitor 2012. Improving the infrastructure – securing participation – fostering growth, Report]