We report results from a randomized evaluation of a merit scholarship program in Kenya in which girls who scored well on academic exams at the end of 6th grade had their school fees paid and received a cash grant for school supplies over the next two years. In the sample as a whole, girls eligible for the scholarship showed substantial gains in academic exam scores, and teacher attendance also improved significantly in program schools. There was also evidence of positive externalities: girls with low pre-test scores, who were unlikely to win scholarships, showed test score gains in program schools. We cannot reject the hypothesis that test score gains were the same for girls with low and high pre-test scores. We see no evidence for weakened intrinsic motivation or gaming, and effects persist after incentives were removed. There is also evidence of heterogeneity in program effects, suggesting the impact of incentives is context dependent. In one of the two study districts, test score effects were large, there were positive spillovers to boys, and student attendance increased in program schools. In the other district, attrition complicates estimation, but we cannot reject the hypothesis that there was no program effect.
We use a randomized evaluation of a Kenyan deworming program to estimate peer effects in technology adoption and to shed light on foreign aid donors’ movement towards sustainable community provision of public goods. Deworming is a public good since much of its social benefit comes through reduced disease transmission. People were less likely to take deworming if their direct first-order or indirect second-order social contacts were exposed to deworming. Efforts to replace subsidies with sustainable worm control measures were ineffective: a drug cost-recovery program reduced take-up 80 percent; health education did not affect behavior, and a mobilization intervention failed. At least in this context, it appears unrealistic for a one-time intervention to generate sustainable voluntary local public goods provision.
The authors report results from a randomized evaluation comparing three school-based HIV/AIDS interventions in Kenya: (1) training teachers in the Kenyan Government's HIV/AIDS-education curriculum; (2) encouraging students to debate the role of condoms and to write essays on how to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS; and (3) reducing the cost of education. Their primary measure of the effectiveness of these interventions is teenage childbearing, which is associated with unprotected sex. The authors also collected measures of knowledge, attitudes, and behavior regarding HIV/AIDS. After two years, girls in schools where teachers had been trained were more likely to be married in the event of a pregnancy. The program had little other impact on students' knowledge, attitudes, and behavior, or on the incidence of teen childbearing. The condom debates and essays increased practical knowledge and self-reported use of condoms without increasing self-reported sexual activity. Reducing the cost of education by paying for school uniforms reduced dropout rates, teen marriage, and childbearing.
This paper compares retrospective and prospective analyses of the effect of flip charts on test scores in rural Kenyan schools. Retrospective estimates suggest that flip charts raise test scores by up to 20% of a standard deviation. Yet prospective estimators based on a randomized trial provide no evidence that flip charts increase test scores. One interpretation is that the retrospective results suffered from omitted variable bias. If the direction of this bias were similar in other retrospective analyses of educational inputs in developing countries, the effects of inputs may be more modest than retrospective studies suggest. A difference-in-differences retrospective estimator seems to reduce bias, but it requires additional assumptions and is feasible for only some educational inputs.
Many argue that organizations of the disadvantaged create positive externalities, and in particular strengthen the position of these groups in society. A natural inference is that these organizations should be subsidized. We argue that the benefits of expanding the operations of these groups must be set against the potential costs of weakening the role of the disadvantaged in these organizations. A prospective, randomized evaluation of a development program targeted at strengthening rural women’s groups in western Kenya suggests that the program did not improve group strength or functioning as measured by participation rates, assistance to members, and assistance to other community projects. The funding did, however, change the very characteristics of the groups that made them attractive to funders in the first place. Younger, more educated women and women employed in the formal sector joined the groups, and men and better-educated and wealthier women moved into key leadership positions.
Intestinal helminths—including hookworm, roundworm, whipworm, and schistosomiasis—infect more than one-quarter of the world’s population. Studies in which medical treatment is randomized at the individual level potentially doubly underestimate the benefits of treatment, missing externality benefits to the comparison group from reduced disease transmission, and therefore also underestimating benefits for the treatment group. We evaluate a Kenyan project in which school-based mass treatment with deworming drugs was randomly phased into schools, rather than to individuals, allowing estimation of overall program effects. The program reduced school absenteeism in treatment schools by one-quarter, and was far cheaper than alternative ways of boosting school participation. Deworming substantially improved health and school participation among untreated children in both treatment schools and neighboring schools, and these externalities are large enough to justify fully subsidizing treatment. Yet we do not find evidence that deworming improved academic test scores.