Education and Human Capital

Khwaja, Asim, Tahir Andrabi, and Jishnu Das. 2016. “Delivering Education: A Pragmatic Framework for Improving Education in Low-Income Countries.” Handbook of International Education.Abstract

Even as primary school enrollments have increased in most low income countries levels of learning remain low and highly unequal. Responding to greater parental demand for quality, low cost private schools have emerged as one of the fastest growing schooling options, challenging the monopoly of state provided education and broadening the set of educational providers. Historically, the rise of private schooling is always deeply intertwined with debates around who chooses what schooling is about and who represents the interests of children. We believe that this time is no different. But rather than first resolve the question of how child welfare is to be adjudicated, we argue instead for a `pragmatic framework’. In our pragmatic framework, policy takes into account the full schooling environment which includes public, private and other types of providers and is actively concerned with first alleviating constraints that prohibit parents and schools from fulfilling their own stated objectives. Using policy actionable experiments as examples, we show that the pragmatic approach can lead to better schooling for children: Alleviating constraints by providing better information, better access to finance or greater access to skilled teachers brings in more children into school and increases test scores in language and Mathematics. These areas of improvement are very similar to those where there is already abroad societal consensus that improvement is required.

Levy, Dan, Joshua Yardley, and Richard Zeckhauser. 2015. “Getting an Honest Answer: Clickers in the Classroom”.Abstract

Asking students to raise their hands is a time-honored feedback mechanism in education. Hand raising allows the teacher to assess to what extent a concept has been understood, or to see where the class stands on a particular issue, and then to proceed with the lesson accordingly. For many types of questions, as the evidence here demonstrates, the tally from a public show of hands misrepresents the true knowledge or preferences of the class. The biases are predictable and systematic. Specifically, students raising their hands tend to herd and vote with the majority answer. Beyond impeding the teacher’s ability to assess her class, such herding threatens to diminish learning by limiting the level to which a student engages with the questions posed by the teacher.

Hanna, Rema, Sendhil Mullainathan, and Joshua Schwartstein. 2015. “Learning Through Noticing: Theory and Evidence from a Field Experiment.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 129 (3): 1311-1353. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We consider a model of technological learning under which people “learn through noticing”: they choose which input dimensions to attend to and subsequently learn about from available data. Using this model, we show how people with a great deal of experience may persistently be off the production frontier because they fail to notice important features of the data they possess. We also develop predictions on when these learning failures are likely to occur, as well as on the types of interventions that can help people learn. We test the model’s predictions in a field experiment with seaweed farmers. The survey data reveal that these farmers do not attend to pod size, a particular input dimension. Experimental trials suggest that farmers are particularly far from optimizing this dimension. Furthermore, consistent with the model, we find that simply having access to the experimental data does not induce learning. Instead, behavioral changes occur only after the farmers are presented with summaries that highlight previously unattended-to relationships in the data.

R. Hanna in QJE: "Learning Through Noticing..."
Khwaja, Asim Ijaz, Tahir Andrabi, and Jishnu Das. 2014. “Report Cards: The Impact of Providing School and Child Test Scores on Educational Markets”.Abstract

We study the impact of providing school and child test scores on subsequent test scores, prices, and enrollment in markets with multiple public and private providers. A randomly selected half of our sample villages (markets) received report cards. This increased test scores by 0.11 standard deviations, decreased private school fees by 17 percent and increased primary enrollment by 4.5 percent. Heterogeneity in the treatment impact by initial school quality is consistent with canonical models of asymmetric information. Information provision facilitates better comparisons across providers, improves market efficiency and raises child welfare through higher test scores, higher enrollment and lower fees.

Levy, Dan, Harounan Kazianga, Leigh Linden, and Matt Sloan. 2013. “The effects of "girl-friendly schools": evidence from the BRIGHT School Construction Program in Burkina Faso.” American Economic Journal of Applied Economics 5 (3): 41-62. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We evaluate a 'girl-friendly' primary school program in Burkina Faso using a regression discontinuity design. After 2.5 years, the program increased enrollment by 19 percentage points and increased test scores by 0.41 standard deviations. For those caused to attend school, scores increased by 2.2 standard deviations. Girls' enrollment increased by 5 percentage points more than boys' enrollment, but they experienced the same increase in test scores as boys. The unique characteristics of the schools are responsible for increasing enrollment by 13 percentage points and test scores by 0.35 standard deviations. They account for the entire difference in the treatment effects by gender.

Hanna, Rema, and Leigh L Linden. 2012. “Discrimination in grading.” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 4 (4): 146-168. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We report the results of an experiment that was designed to test for discrimination in grading in India. We recruited teachers to grade exams. We randomly assigned child "characteristics" (age, gender, and caste) to the cover sheets of the exams to ensure that there is no relationship between these observed characteristics and the exam quality. We find that teachers give exams that are assigned to be lower caste scores that are about 0.03 to 0.08 standard deviations lower than those that are assigned to be high caste. The teachers' behavior appears consistent with statistical discrimination.

Duflo, Esther, Rema Hanna, and Stephen Ryan. 2012. “Incentives work: getting teachers to come to school.” American Economic Review 102 (4): 1241-1278. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We use a randomized experiment and a structural model to test whether monitoring and financial incentives can reduce teacher absence and increase learning in rural India. In treatment schools, teachers' attendance was monitored daily using cameras, and their salaries were made a nonlinear function of attendance. Absenteeism by teachers fell by 21 percentage points relative to the control group, and children's test scores increased by 0.17 standard deviations. We estimate a structural dynamic labor supply model and nd that teachers responded strongly to the nancial incentives, and that this alone can explain the dierence between the two groups. Our model is used to compute cost-minimizing compensation policies

Khwaja, Asim Ijaz, Tahir Andrabi, and Jishnu Das. 2012. “Students Today, Teachers Tomorrow: Identifying Constraints on the Provision of Education.” Journal of Public Economics 100 (1): 1-14. Publisher's VersionAbstract

With an estimated one hundred and fifteen million children not attending primary school in the developing world, increasing access to education is critical. This pap er highlights a supply-side factor - the availability of low-cost teachers - and the resulting ability of the market to affordable education. We first show that private schools are three times more likely to emerge in villages with government girls' secondary schools (GSSs). Identication is obtained by using official school construction guidelines as an instrument for the presence of GSSs. In contrast, private school presence shows little or no relationship with girls' primary or boys' primary and secondary government schools. In support of a supply-channel, we then show that, villages which received a GSS have over twice as many educated women, and private school teachers' wages are 27 percent lower in these villages. In an environment with low female education and mobility, GSSs substantially increase the lo cal supply of skilled women lowering wages locally and allowing the market to oer affordable education. These findings highlight the prominent role of women as teachers in facilitating educational access and resonate with similar historical evidence from develop ed economies. The students of to day are the teachers of tomorrow

Hanna, Rema, Sendhil Mullainathan, and Josh Schwartstein. 2012. “Learning Through Noticing: Theory and Experimental Evidence in Farming”.Abstract

Existing learning models attribute failures to learn to a lack of data. We model a different barrier. Given the large number of dimensions one could focus on when using a technology, people may fail to learn because they failed to notice important features of the data they possess. We conduct a field experiment with seaweed farmers to test a model of "learning through noticing." We find evidence of a failure to notice: On some dimensions, farmers do not even know the value of their own input. Interestingly, trials show that these dimensions are the ones that farmers fail to optimize. Furthermore, consistent with the model, we find that simply having access to the experimental data does not induce learning. Instead, farmers change behavior only when presented with summaries that highlight the overlooked dimensions. We also draw out the implications of learning through noticing for technology adoption, agricultural extension, and the meaning of human capital.

Kwaja, Asim Ijaz, Tahir Andrabi, and Jishnu Das. 2011. “What Did You Do All Day? Maternal Education and Child Outcomes.” Journal of Human Resources 47 (4): 873-912. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Does maternal education have an impact on children’s educational outcomes even at the very low levels found in many developing countries? We use instrumental variables analysis to address this issue in Pakistan. We find that children of mothers with some education spend 72 more minutes per day on educational activities at home. Mothers with some education also spend more time helping their children with school work. In the subset that have test scores available, children whose mothers have some education have higher scores by 0.23–0.35 standard deviations. We do not find support for channels through which education affects bargaining power within the household.

Hanna, Rema, Marianne Bertrand, and Sendhil Mullainathan. 2010. “Affirmative action in education: Evidence from engineering college admissions in India.” Journal of Public Economics 94 (1-2): 16-29. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This paper examines an affirmative action program for “lower-caste” groups in engineering colleges in India. We study both the targeting properties of the program, and its implications for labor market outcomes. We find that affirmative action successfully targets the financially disadvantaged: the upper-caste applicants that are displaced by affirmative action come from a richer economic background than the lower-caste applicants that are displacing them. Targeting by caste, however, may lead to the exclusion of other disadvantaged groups. For example, caste-based targeting reduces the overall number of females entering engineering colleges. We find that despite poor entrance exam scores, lower-caste entrants obtain a positive return to admission. Our estimates, however, also suggest that these gains may come at an absolute cost because the income losses experienced by displaced upper-caste applicants are larger than the income gains experienced by displacing lower-caste students. Limited sample sizes in our preferred econometric specifications, however, prevent us from drawing strong conclusions from these labor market findings.

Field, Erica, Seema Jayachandran, and Rohini Pande. 2010. “Do Traditional Institutions Constrain Female Entrepreneurship? A Field Experiment on Business Training in India.” American Economic Review 100 (2): 125-129. Publisher's Version
Cutler, David, Winnie Fung, Michael Kremer, Monica Singhal, and Tom Vogl. 2010. “Early-life Malaria Exposure and Adult Outcomes: Evidence from Malaria Eradication in India.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 2 (2): 72-94. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We examine the effects of exposure to malaria in early childhood on educational attainment and economic status in adulthood by exploiting geographic variation in malaria prevalence in India prior to a nationwide eradication program in the 1950s. We find that the program led to modest increases in household per capita consumption for prime age men, and the effects for men are larger than those for women in most specifications. We find no evidence of increased educational attainment for men and mixed evidence for women.

Khwaja, Asim, Tahir Andrabi, Jishnu Das, and C. Christine Fair. 2009. “The Madrasa Myth.” Foreign Policy, Aug 27 2009. Publisher's VersionAbstract

On May 3, 2009 the New York Times published a lengthy description of Pakistan's education system. The article, like so many before it, rehearsed a well-known narrative in which government schools are failing while madrasas are multiplying, providing a modicum of education for Pakistan's poorest children.

Andrabi, Tahir, Jishnu Das, Asim Ijaz Khwaja, Tara Vishwanath, and Tristan Zajonc. 2009. “Learning and Educational Achievements in Punjab Schools (LEAPS): Insights to inform the education policy debate,” 1-199. Publisher's VersionAbstract

There have been dramatic changes in the educational landscape of Pakistan in the new millennium. Enrollments are starting to look up with a one percentage point jump in net enrollments between 2001 and 2005. In addition, secular, co-educational and for-profit private schools have become a widespread presence in both urban and rural areas. Between 2000 and 2005, the number of private schools increased from 32,000 to 47,000 and by the end of 2005, one in every three enrolled children at the primary level was studying in a private school.

Svensson, Jakob, and David Yanagizawa-Drott. 2009. “Getting Prices Right: The Impact of the Market Information Service in Uganda.” Journal of the European Economic Association 7 (2-3): 435-445. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Market Information Service project in Uganda collected data on prices for the main agricultural commodities in major market centers and disseminated the information through local FM radio stations in various districts. Exploiting the variation across space between households with and without access to a radio, we find evidence suggesting that better-informed farmers managed to bargain for higher farm-gate prices on their surplus production.

Ahlerup, Pelle, Ola Olsson, and David Yanagizawa-Drott. 2009. “Social Capital vs Institutions in the Growth Process.” European Journal of Political Economy 25 (1): 1-14. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Is social capital a substitute or a complement to formal institutions for achieving economic growth? A number of recent micro studies suggest that interpersonal trust has its greatest impact on economic performance when court institutions are relatively weak. The conventional wisdom from most macro studies, however, is that social capital is unconditionally good for growth. On the basis of the micro evidence, we outline an investment game between a producer and a lender in an incomplete-contracts setting. A key insight is that social capital will have the greatest effect on the total surplus from the game at lower levels of institutional strength and that the effect of social capital vanishes when institutions are very strong. When we bring this prediction to an empirical cross-country growth regression, it is shown that the marginal effect of social capital (in the form of interpersonal trust) decreases with institutional strength. Our results imply that a one standard deviation rise in social capital in weakly institutionalized Nigeria should increase economic growth by 1.8 percentage points, whereas the same increase in social capital only increases growth by 0.3 percentage points in strongly institutionalized Canada.

Khwaja, Asim, Tahir Andrabi, Jishnu Das, and Tristan Zajonc. 2008. “Madrassa Metrics: The Statistics and Rhetoric of Religious Enrollment in Pakistan.” Beyond Crisis: A Critical Second Look at Pakistan, Ed. Naveeda Khan, Routledge, May 2008.Abstract

Although consensus on deep determinants of terrorism still eludes us, Islamic religious schools are widely cited as an important contributor to extremism. Nowhere have these statements been more strongly applied than to Pakistan, where religious schools -- commonly known as madrassas -- were responsible for educating the leadership of the Taliban during the 1980s. In recent years, these schools have been called “factories of jihad” and are commonly believed to churn out extremists by the millions. While discussions about Pakistani madrassas are deemed central to the war on terror, two distinct issues remain difficult to resolve: First, do madrassas, through their teaching and training, create terrorists by indoctrinating their students in a particular world-view? Second, are parents increasingly sending the vast majority of their children to madrassas?

Kremer, Michael, and Dan Levy. 2008. “Peer Effects and Alcohol Use among College Students.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 22 (3): 189-206. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This paper examines the extent to which college students who drink alcohol influence their peers. We exploit a natural experiment in which students at a large state university were randomly assigned roommates through a lottery system. We find that on average, males assigned to roommates who reported drinking in the year prior to entering college had a Grade Point Average (GPA) one quarter-point lower than those assigned to nondrinking roommates. The effect of initial assignment to a drinking roommate persists into the second year of college and possibly grows. The effect is especially large for students who drank alcohol themselves in the year prior to college. In contrast to the males, females' GPAs do not appear affected by roommates' drinking prior to college. Furthermore, students' college GPA is not significantly affected by roommates' high school grades, admission test scores, or family background. These findings are more consistent with models in which peers change people's preferences than with models in which peers change people's choice sets. Surprisingly, the policy of segregating drinkers by having substance-free housing could potentially lower average GPA in the university.

Field, Erica, Matthew Levinson, Rohini Pande, and Sujata Visaria. 2008. “Segregation, Rent Control, and Riots: The Economics of Religious Conflict in an Indian City.” American Economic Review 98 (2): 505-510. Publisher's Version