In an effort to reduce school dropout rates in Peru, researchers have partnered with the Peruvian Ministry of Education to develop a program that gives students information about the returns to primary and secondary education. Researchers will conduct two evaluations to assess how the provision of this information affects drop-out rates and parents’ and students’ perceptions and decisions, as well as to provide insight into how the government could scale-up the approach based on the results.

Policy Issue 

Over the last two decades, many developing countries have expanded primary school access and achieved very high rates of primary school enrollment. However, drop out rates in many countries remain high. Poor families often face a trade-off between having their children leave school and earn an income or keeping them in school so that they will potentially earn a higher income later in life. Evidence suggests that one barrier to higher secondary school attendance is that families perceive the returns to secondary schooling to be lower than they actually are.1

Recent research has shown that simply giving information about real returns to education can improve students’ decisions about their education, reduce school drop-out rates, and encourage better academic performance.2 3 4 This research in Peru will contribute evidence on the effects of such information campaigns, as well as provide information on how students from fifth grade through high school develop their preferences across different fields of study, their beliefs regarding their own talents, the feasibility of reaching college, and how their beliefs affect their decisions to invest in specific areas of human capital. This research also looks at the effects of an information intervention that covers the returns to achieving various education levels, returns to specific majors and occupations, as well as the availability of financial aid policies. The evaluation will also inform the potential scale-up of the program across Peru. If successful, it could serve as a scalable model for other settings as well.

Context of the Evaluation 

Despite recent advances in the Peruvian educational system, school drop out rates remain high: according to the 2014 National Household Survey (ENAHO), 13 percent of young people leave school before age 14 and 18 percent do not complete secondary school. The situation is even more serious in rural areas, where the figures are 18 and 39 percent, respectively.

Details of the Intervention 

The intervention consists of providing students and parents with information about the monetary and non-monetary returns to finishing elementary and secondary education and the feasibility of pursuing secondary education. The main method of disseminating the information is via instructional videos. The program is meant for families in vulnerable contexts.

Researchers will carry out two complementary, randomized evaluations to measure the impact of the intervention. In each, researchers will randomly assign schools to participate in the program or serve as a comparison group. The first evaluation is of a large-scale intervention which consists of showing videos to students during their classes, and could be implemented on a national scale with limited monitoring resources. Since the program and evaluation are being implemented in approximately 1,250 urban schools in 24 regional capitals around the country, the evaluation should provide accurate information on the impact of the intervention at scale. Follow-up for this intervention will be mainly through administrative data from the Peruvian Ministry of Education as well as a low-cost survey of a subsample (600 schools in five cities). The main objective will be to evaluate the effect of the intervention on dropout rates comparing schools in treatment group who receive the videos and schools in the comparison group who do not.

A second evaluation seeks to study the effect of the information intervention on students and parents in a smaller, controlled sample (266 urban schools in the Lima metropolitan area and 250 rural schools in the Sierra Sur region). Using a more intensive intervention and an in-depth survey, researchers will study the effect of the information on students’ and parents’ perceptions, long-term plans, and use of time.

Taken together, these two evaluations will demonstrate how the information affects parents’ and students’ perceptions and decisions, and how the government can effectively implement an intervention based on this evidence.

Results and Policy Lessons 

Project ongoing; results forthcoming. 

 

Funding for this project was provided by the United States Department of Labor.

This material does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the United States Department of Labor, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the United States Government.

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Preliminary Results Brief (Spanish)752.64 KB

Sources

[1] Jensen, Robert. "The (perceived) returns to education and the demand for schooling." The Quarterly Journal of Economics 125, no. 2 (2010): 515-548.

[2] Nguyen, Trang. "Information, role models and perceived returns to education: Experimental evidence from Madagascar." Unpublished manuscript 6 (2008).

Martınez, A., and T. Dinkelman. "Investing in Schooling in Chile: The Role of Information about Financial Aid for Higher Education." Review of Economics and Statistics (forthcoming) (2013).

[3] Justine Hastings and Christopher A. Neilson and Seth D. Zimmerman, 2015. The Effects of Earnings Disclosure on College Enrollment Decisions". National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper Series n1300, June.

[4] Martınez, A., and T. Dinkelman. "Investing in Schooling in Chile: The Role of Information about Financial Aid for Higher Education." Review of Economics and Statistics (forthcoming) (2013).