Mira Fischer


Welcome to my personal website!


I am a postdoc in economics at the University of Cologne and will be a research associate at WZB Berlin from September 2018. I am also a research affiliate at IZA.

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.

[CV]          [ResearchGate Profile]           [Google Scholar Profile]


University of Cologne

Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences


 office: +49 221 470 6311

Working 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 may help to explain this puzzle: which aspect of one's past performance the information refers to and when it is revealed. In a field experiment, 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 (late) before the final math exam of the semester. Both level feedback and change feedback significantly improve students' grades in the final exam when given early and tend to worsen them when given late. The largest effects are found for negative change feedback and are concentrated on male students, who adjust their ability beliefs downwards in response to feedback.

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.



"Confidence in Knowledge or Confidence in the Ability to Learn: An Experiment on the Causal Effects of Beliefs on Motivation" (with D. Sliwka),
Games and Economic Behavior, forthcoming

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

Ist sanfter Paternalismus ethisch vertretbar? Eine differenzierende Betrachtung aus Sicht der Freiheit” (with S. Lotz), German Review of Social Policy, 63(3), 2014 -- English version -- : Is Soft Paternalism Ethically Legitimate? - The Relevance of Psychological Processes for the Assessment of Nudge-Based Policies, Cologne Graduate School Working Paper, 5(2), 2014


Work in Progress

Peer Selection and Team Performance: Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment, with Rainer Michael Rilke and Burcin Yurtoglu

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

Increasing Cooperation in Polarized Groups (lab experiment)

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

Stress and Academic Performance (field experiment), with Lea Cassar and Vanessa Valero

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]