Skip to main content

Are you paying your kids to do their homework? Are you enticing the tykes to get all their school-assigned reading done with the promise of a cash reward? If you are, it turns out you're wasting your money. In fact, you're not only wasting you're money, the whole strategy is likely to backfire – badly.

As Time magazine's Francine Russo reports, "the latest studies on paying kids to do academic tasks found a negligible to zero positive effect on their grades, standardized test results and other measures of academic performance."

Russo cites one study by Harvard economist Roland Fryer that compared children rewarded with cash and those who didn't receive any financial incentives in more than 200 schools in three U.S. cities According to Fryer's study, "the impact of financial incentives on student achievement is statistically zero in each city." Another long-term study found cash rewards resulted in slight improvements, but in only in math.

Story continues below advertisement

A small bump in a kid's math scores may not be worth the potential negative consequences of offering kids cash for schoolwork, however.

Doing so can make kids anxious and deal a blow to their self-esteem, says John Woodward, dean of the school of education at the University of Puget Sound in Washington State. "Students focus on grades rather than understanding a subject, and this can make them anxious, as they compare themselves to others," he told Russo.

As well, a cash-for-grades system can alter kids' motivation, making them chase monetary rewards rather than enjoy learning for learning's sake.

And though Russo doesn't put it in these terms, it can also create little brats. As Eileen Kennedy-Moore, co-author of Smart Parenting for Smart Kids, told Time, incentivizing kids to do their homework with the promise of money or other material rewards "can lead to a very unattractive bargaining attitude, where kids demand, 'What do I get if I do that?' "

Of course, sometimes cash is seen as a necessary measure in desperate times. One program at a school in Vancouver pays some students just to come to class and meet certain targets, such as getting to class on time and doing their homework.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies