Skip to main content

KNOXVILLE—Money is a motivator. But can money be a motivator to learn?

Gregg Rader won the title of Pearson's Future Economic Insider at the recent National Economics Insider Symposium in Washington, DC.

Gregg Rader, a junior in economics at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, thinks so, and he put his proposal to the test, and won. Rader earned the title of Pearson’s Future Economic Insider at the recent National Economics Insider Symposium (NEIS) in Washington, DC. He was one of twelve finalists to compete for the honor.

The Insider Contest, open to any US college student enrolled in an economics course this past spring semester, asked for solutions on how we could change our economy for the better. The twelve finalists were chosen based on the strength, feasibility, and creativity of their ideas and the overall clarity of their proposed solution.

“I was able to meet some extraordinary economists and do some great networking,” Rader said. “I enjoyed getting to meet and interact with some of the world’s top economists; it was an amazing experience. When internationally renowned economists such as Glenn Hubbard and David Laibson tell you that they like your ideas, and that you would make a good economist, it is one of the most encouraging things in the world.”

Rader’s two-part proposal, “Rewarding Excellent Achievement: Improving Student Performance through Financial Incentives,” proposes to test the effectiveness of financial incentives for students in the public education system. In the first part of the program, the government would run a nationwide randomized controlled trial that tested different types of financial incentive programs.

“Phase one would treat the public school system as a big laboratory, running lots of experiments to find out which pay practices successfully motivated students and how to best implement these practices,” said Rader. “In the second part, the government would grant money to states or school districts that implemented financial incentive programs into their schools.”

Marianne Wanamaker, assistant professor of economics and one of Rader’s nominating instructors, was very impressed with Rader’s work and believes he shows great promise as a future economist.

“Gregg saw that we have incentivized teachers and school systems to pursue academic excellence in the classroom. So, why not students?” Wanamaker said.

Celeste Carruthers, assistant professor of economics and another of Rader’s nominating instructors, accompanied Rader in Washington, DC, and watched his presentation.

“Gregg’s recognition of important policy problems and his research skills are exceptional, and it was clear that his presentation impressed the judges,” Carruthers said. “He handled their questions like a professional.”

Pearson, a global leader in education, technology, and services, is a partner in education with many of the world’s leading economic authorities, including Paul Krugman of Princeton University, recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economics; Glenn Hubbard, Dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Business; Frederic Mishkin of Columbia University; Karl E. Case, emeritus professor of economics of Wellesley College and founding member of Fiserv Case Shiller Weiss Home Pricing Index; Daron Acemoglu of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Olivier Blanchard of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and currently chief economist of the International Monetary Fund; John List of the University of Chicago; and David Laibson of Harvard University.

For more information on the competition, please visit

C O N T A C T :

Cindy Raines (865-974-4359,