How does lowering the cost of schooling in early years affect later attainment?

School Costs, Short-Run Participation, and Long-Run Outcomes: Evidence from Kenya”: My paper with Mũthoni Ngatia is out as a World Bank Policy Research Working Paper. Here’s what we learned.

uniforms abstract

Even though primary education is “free” in many countries, families face many incidental expenses: uniforms, transport, and materials, among others.

cost

In Kenya, we worked with an NGO that provided free school uniforms to children to reduce the cost of schooling.

uniform

I know that you’re going to say: Do we need another study of “giving stuff” for education and how it affects attendance? Aren’t we supposed to be focused on learning and pedagogy?

learning

First, while attending school is no guarantee of learning, it’s a really important part of the process.

school

Second, we follow these students over 8 years. Few international education studies trace the time path of impact.

clock.gif

A school uniform can increase school participation by multiple means. Families don’t have to pay for the uniforms. AND students don’t feel stigmatized by being the only kid without a uniform.

duck

What do we find? In the short run, providing a school uniform does increase school participation.

yay

The impacts are particularly large for the poorest kids. Absenteeism drops by 15 percentage points for them, eliminating 55 percent of absenteeism for them.

yay2

But 8 years later, the children who participated in the program had no better educational outcomes than those who did not.

tear

Some educational interventions have long-lasting impacts: Smaller early-grade classes in the USA have translated into better college performance.

college

But we can’t assume it. In this case, initial gains in school participation do not translate into more school completion.

assume

And a few last words from the paper: “Take care when interpreting short-term results, taking into account these results and others which demonstrate that long-term impacts may vary – sometimes dramatically – from initial effects.”

changes

“Gathering long-term data is costly, but without it, the trajectory of impacts resulting from the wide range of interventions currently being implemented remains a mystery.”

batman

That’s it! Big short-term impacts for poor kids but disappointing long-term impacts. Check out the paper!

thank you

 

Advertisements

What I’ve been reading this month – April 2018

exit westExit West, by Mohsin Hamid — “It might seem odd that in cities teetering at the edge of the abyss young people still go to class…but that is the way of things, with cities as with life, for one moment we are pottering about our errands as usual and the next we are dying, and our eternally impending ending does not put a stop to our transient beginnings and middles until the instant when it does.” Gorgeously written, fast-paced novel about a couple falling in love and then forcing to seek refuge beyond the borders of their country. “The novel feels immediately canonical, so firm and unerring is Hamid’s understanding of our time and its most pressing questions” (Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker).

archaeopterix2Archaeopteryx, by Dan Darling — In a moment, all the birds flying over a nature reserve in New Mexico fall to the earth, dead. John Stick, a literal giant of a man who wants nothing more than to be left alone to care for the reptiles at the zoo, is pushed and prodded by a colorful array of characters to find out what happened. This magical realist thriller leads us to a corporation tampering with nature — with echoes of H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau — while somehow also tackling Mexico-U.S. border issues. It’s a nonstop thrill ride, full of surprises, with heart (“If you memorized enough of TV, you didn’t ever have to say what you meant.”) and humor (“You’re liquid plumber. Your job is to flush away the evil block up the universe.”), all set in beautiful New Mexico. I couldn’t put it down.

an american marriageAn American Marriage, by Tayari Jones — When an African-American man is unjustly imprisoned, what’s the impact on the marriage that he and his wife share, barely a year old? “punishing questions, but they’re spun with tender patience by Jones, who cradles each of these characters in a story that pulls our sympathies in different directions” (Ron Charles, The Washington Post). Heartbreaking.

how to write shortHow to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times, by Roy Peter Clark — “In the hands of careful writers, a few good words can be worth a thousand pictures.” In the age of twitter and blogs, Clark instructs on how to write all things short. He provides beautiful examples of short writing throughout history (think The Gettysburg Address). “Identify and follow the work of literary men and women known for their ability to write short texts with focus, wit, and polish.” Speaking of wit, Clark provides it (and sometimes borrows it — with attribution — in spades): “As Dorothy Parker explained, ‘Brevity is the soul of lingerie.'”

binti homeBinti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor — “I hadn’t told my family about my hair not being hair anymore, that it was now a series of alien tentacles.” After stopping a war in Binti, the titular character returns to earth and begins to unlearn her own old prejudices about the peoples of her homeland. Okorafor explores how we choose new identities, how they sometimes are chosen for us, and how it both alienates us from our old life but opens doors to new lives.

flammableEverything Is Flammable, by Gabrielle Bell — In this meandering graphic memoir, Bell documents her anxieties and day-to-day struggles to help her mother. A few of the panels spoke deep truth to me. This graphic memoir was recommended on at least 6 “best of” lists for 2017.

The Black Monday Murders Volume 1, by Jonathan Hickman and Tommblack monday Coker — Schools of economics date back to ancient days and manipulate society for wealth. Oh, and cannibalism? Or drinking blood?

give and takeGive and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, by Adam Grant — A few years ago, I read a compelling profile of Wharton Business School professor Adam Grant in the New York Times Magazine. Grant’s philosophy is that giving generously can be a strategy not just to happiness but also to business success. In this book, he marshals a wide array of social psychology evidence to argue that many of the most successful — as well as the least successful — businesspeople are givers, with strategies for how to be in the former group, not the latter. Essentially, he’s trying to make kindness respectable.

spinning2Spinning, by Tillie Walden — A tween grows up and comes out while competing as an ice skater. The stress and fear is palpable. This graphic memoir was recommended on at least 4 “best of” lists for 2017.

Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace, by Anne Lamott –small victories– “Getting found almost always means being lost for a while.” With witty irreverence, Lamott’s essays explore kindness, forgiveness, and love. Her own reflections are thoughtful, and she selects just the right passages to quote from other authors, like this one from Wendell Berry: “It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

And before I go, here’s a thought on a particular brand of economics from the Black Monday Murders:
economicsprofessor

Can microcredit be profitable?

A new study by Burke, Bergquist, and Miguel suggests that it can. Not only that: it delivers positive spillovers. I write about it over at Let’s Talk Development.

Microcredit that helps more than just the borrower

Prices in African agricultural markets fluctuate a lot: “Grain prices in major markets regularly” rise “by 25-40% between the harvest and lean seasons, and often more than 50% in more isolated markets.” To an economist, this looks like a massive missed opportunity: Why don’t farmers just hold onto their harvested grain and sell at a much higher price during the lean season?

According to new work by researchers Burke, Bergquist, and Miguel, farmers in Kenya lack access to credit or savings opportunities, and so they “report selling their grain at low post-harvest prices to meet urgent cash needs (e.g., to pay school fees). To meet consumption needs later in the year, many then end up buying back grain from the market a few months after selling it.” It’s like the grain market is a very expensive source of short-term loans.

Can microcredit help? Offering farmers a loan at harvest led them to sell less at harvest time and to sell more grain later, when prices were higher. “The loan produces a return on investment of 28% over a roughly nine month period.”

Read more…

What we learn from two new studies of patient satisfaction surveys

Over at Development Impact, I blog on two recent publications I had about how to better measure the patient experience in Nigeria.

Pitfalls of Patient Satisfaction Surveys and How to Avoid Them

A child has a fever. Her father rushes to his community’s clinic, his daughter in his arms. He waits. A nurse asks him questions and examines his child. She gives him advice and perhaps a prescription to get filled at a pharmacy. He leaves.

How do we measure the quality of care that this father and his daughter received? There are many ingredients: Was the clinic open? Was a nurse present? Was the patient attended to swiftly? Did the nurse know what she was talking about? Did she have access to needed equipment and supplies?

Both health systems and researchers have made efforts to measure the quality of each of these ingredients, with a range of tools. Interviewers pose hypothetical situations to doctors and nurses to test their knowledge. Inspectors examine the cleanliness and organization of the facility, or they make surprise visits to measure health worker attendance. Actors posing as patients test both the knowledge and the effort of health workers.

Read more…

For complex debates, an alternative to social media

There is an alternative to Twitter, Facebook and all those indignant op-eds that we use to confirm the superiority of our beliefs. It’s a flexible, troll-free, hacker-resistant platform on which complex social and moral questions can be carefully explored. It simultaneously engages our empathy and models the action of empathy for us. It’s called a novel.

That’s Ron Charles in the Washington Post.

I write it down so I don’t have to remember it

In the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Henry Jones — Indiana’s father — finds the key information needed to safely traverse a perilous journey to retrieve the Holy Grail.

Professor Henry Jones: Well, he who finds the Grail must face the final challenge.

Indiana Jones: What final challenge?

Professor Henry Jones: Three devices of such lethal cunning.

Indiana Jones: Booby traps?

Professor Henry Jones: Oh, yes. But I found the clues that will safely take us through them in the Chronicles of St. Anselm.

Indiana Jones: [pleased] Well, what are they?

[annoyed]

Indiana Jones: Can’t you remember?

Professor Henry Jones: I wrote them down in my diary so that I wouldn’t *have* to remember.

[Dialogue is documented at IMDB.com.]

Just yesterday, I wrote to a colleague asking for information, and he pointed me to a blog post that I wrote two months ago. I often keep my research findings straight, but — to adapt from Henry Jones — I write them down so that I don’t have to remember them! As University of Chicago professor Linda Ginzel tells her students, “If you don’t write it down, it doesn’t exist.”

In honor of the senior Dr. Jones, I made this little reminder…

How do researchers estimate regressions with patient satisfaction at the outcome? A brief review of practice

Recently, Anna Welander Tärneberg and I were doing research with patient satisfaction as the outcome, and we checked how other researchers had estimated these equations in the past. Here is what we found, as documented in the appendix of our recently published paper in the journal Health Economics.

chart

People use a lot of different methods, and many authors use multiple methods. But there is a rich history of using Ordinary Least Squares regressions to estimate impacts on patient satisfaction. In our paper, we used OLS but verified all the results with Probit and Logit regressions. To add to this list, Dunsch et al. (including me) have a new paper out last week on patient satisfaction in Nigeria, also using OLS as the main estimation method.