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Initial access to school is nearly universal in Kenya, but many children who enroll drop out before completing primary school. In this mixed-methods study, we use quantitative data from a randomized control trial involving 2666 upper primary-grade students, as well as qualitative data from interviews with 41 schoolchildren, dropouts, and parents, to examine dropout. Poorer baseline performance on literacy and numeracy assessments predicted a higher risk of dropout. Interviews revealed that children are the primary decision-makers rather than parents. Together, these findings suggest that school quality interventions may be an effective means of reducing primary school dropout in this region.

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Published Paper
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July 06, 2016
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This study estimates long-run impacts of a child health investment, exploiting community-wide experimental variation in school-based deworming. The program increased labor supply among men and education among women, with accompanying shifts in labor market specialization. Ten years after deworming treatment, men who were eligible as boys stay enrolled for more years of primary school, work 17% more hours each week, spend more time in non-agricultural self-employment, are more likely to hold manufacturing jobs, and miss one fewer meal per week. Women who were in treatment schools as girls are approximately one quarter more likely to have attended secondary school, halving the gender gap. They reallocate time from traditional agriculture into cash crops and non-agricultural self-employment. We estimate a conservative annualized financial internal rate of return to deworming of 32%, and show that mass deworming may generate more in future government revenue than it costs in subsidies.

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Working Paper
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July 01, 2016
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Low school attendance, absent or overwhelmed teachers, and underperforming schools are on-going impediments to educational attainment for the poor around the world.

While many more children are in school than a decade ago, there are still 58 million children out of school, and even when these kids are in school and complete a few years of education, they are often still unable to read, write, and do basic math. The Education Program Area at Innovations for Poverty Action rigorously evaluates programs that aim to improve education outcomes and school attendance.

In partnership with academic leaders in the field, our work has produced evidence on how to keep kids in school, such as through school-based deworming or sharing information on the benefits of schooling, and on how to make sure kids learn while there, such as in our teacher community assistant initiative in Ghana and through incentives, such as merit scholarships for students.

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Brief
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March 04, 2016
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A seven-year randomized evaluation suggests education subsidies reduce adolescent girls’ dropout, pregnancy, and marriage but not sexually transmitted infection (STI). The government’s HIV curriculum, which stresses abstinence until marriage, does not reduce pregnancy or STI. Both programs combined reduce STI more, but cut dropout and pregnancy less, than education subsidies alone. These results are inconsistent with a model of schooling and sexual behavior in which both pregnancy and STI are determined by one factor (unprotected sex), but consistent with a two-factor model in which choices between committed and casual relationships also affect these outcomes.

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September 01, 2015
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Scholars have long speculated about education’s political impacts, variously arguing that it promotes modern or pro-democratic attitudes; that it instills acceptance of existing authority; and that it empowers the disadvantaged to challenge authority. This paper studies the political and social impacts of increased education. To address the potential threat of bias from selection into human capital investment, we utilize a randomized girls’ merit scholarship incentive program in Kenya that raised test scores and secondary schooling. We find little evidence for modernization theory. Consistent with the empowerment view, young women in program schools were less likely to accept domestic violence. Moreover, the program increased objective political knowledge, and reduced acceptance of political authority. However, this rejection of the status quo did not translate into greater perceived political efficacy, community participation, or voting intentions. Instead, there is suggestive evidence that the perceived legitimacy of political violence increased. Reverse causality may account for the view that education instills greater acceptance of authority.

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Working Paper
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September 01, 2015
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Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs) have been shown to increase human capital investments, but their standard features make them expensive. We use a large randomized experiment in Morocco to estimate an alternative government-run program, a “labeled cash transfer” (LCT): a small cash transfer made to fathers of school-aged children in poor rural communities, not conditional on school attendance but explicitly labeled as an education support program. We document large gains in school participation. Adding conditionality and targeting mothers made almost no difference in our context. The program increased parents’ belief that education was a worthwhile investment, a likely pathway for the results.

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August 01, 2015
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We implement a randomized experiment offering Salvadoran migrants matching funds for educational remittances, which are channeled directly to a beneficiary student in El Salvador chosen by the migrant. The matches lead to increased educational expenditures, higher private school attendance, and lower labor supply of youths in El Salvador households connected to migrant study participants. We find substantial “crowd-in” of educational investments: for each $1 received by beneficiaries, educational expenditures increase by $3.72. We find no shifting of expenditures away from other students, and no effect on remittances.

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April 30, 2015
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We evaluate, using a randomized trial, two school-based financial literacy education programs in government-run primary and junior high schools in Ghana. One program integrated financial and social education, whereas the second program only offered financial education. Both programs included a voluntary after-school savings club that provided students with a locked money box. After nine months, both programs had significant impacts on savings behavior relative to the control group, mostly because children moved savings from home to school. We observed few other impacts. We do find that financial education, when not accompanied by social education, led children to work more compared to the control group, whereas no such effect is found for the integrated curriculum; however, the difference between the two treatment effects on child labor is not statistically significant.

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Working Paper
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March 30, 2015
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What should be considered when developing a literacy intervention that asks teachers to implement new instructional methods? How can this be achieved with minimal support within existing policy? We argue that two broad sets of considerations must be made in designing such an intervention. First, the intervention must be effective by bridging the gap between current teacher practice and the scientific literature on effective instruction. This broad consideration is detailed with 10 design recommendations. Second, the intervention must be amenable to being scaled-up and mainstreamed as part of government policy. This involves being (i) simple and replicable; (ii) well received by teachers; and (iii) cost effective. The paper describes how these factors were considered in the design of a literacy intervention in government primary schools in coastal Kenya. It also includes reactions from teachers about the intervention and their change in knowledge.

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March 01, 2015
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This paper tests how migrants’ willingness to remit changes when given the ability to direct remittances to educational purposes using different forms of commitment. Variants of a dictator game in a lab-in-the-field experiment with Filipino migrants in Rome are used to examine remitting behavior under varying degrees of commitment. These range from the soft commitment of simply labeling remittances as being for education, to the hard commitment of having funds directly paid to a school and the student’s educational performance monitored. We find that the introduction of simple labeling for education raises remittances by more than 15%. Adding the ability to directly send this funding to the school adds only a further 2.2%. We randomly vary the information asymmetry between migrants and their most closely connected household, but find no significant change in the remittance response to these forms of commitment as information varies. Behavior in these games is then shown to be predictive of take-up of a new financial product called EduPay, designed to allow migrants to directly pay remittances to schools in the Philippines. We find this take-up is largely driven by a response to the ability to label remittances for education, rather than to the hard commitment feature of directly paying schools.

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January 07, 2015
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Some education policymakers focus on bringing down pupil–teacher ratios. Others argue that resources will have limited impact without systematic reforms to education governance, teacher incentives, and pedagogy. We examine a program under which school committees at randomly selected Kenyan schools were funded to hire an additional teacher on an annual contract renewable conditional on performance, outside normal Ministry of Education civil-service channels, at one-quarter normal compensation levels. For students randomly assigned to stay with existing classes, test scores did not increase significantly, despite a reduction in class size from 82 to 44 on average. In contrast, scores increased for students assigned to be taught by locally-hired contract teachers. One reason may be that contract teachers had low absence rates, while centrally-hired civil-service teachers in schools randomly assigned contract teachers endogenously reduced their effort. Civil-service teachers also captured rents for their families, with approximately 1/3 of contract teacher positions going to relatives of existing teachers. A governance program that empowered parents within school committees reduced both forms of capture. The best contract teachers obtained civil service jobs over time, and we estimate large potential dynamic benefits from supplementing a civil service system with locally-hired contract teachers brought in on a probationary basis and granted tenure conditional on performance.

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December 09, 2014
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We use a suite of economic experiments to study social preferences governing the distribution of earned and unearned income in rural villages in western Kenya. Our experiments vary the extent to which income depends on individual effort while holding other aspects of the economic environment constant. Results suggest that, in rural villages, the relative weight placed on others does not depend on the extent to which those individual increased the total surplus through their own effort. However, more educated subjects and those drawn from villages closer to the road do reward others for their effort; their allocation decisions are consistent with models of reciprocity.

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October 24, 2014
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We combine data from a randomized evaluation and a laboratory experiment to measure the causal impact of human capital on respect for earned property rights, a component of social preferences with important implications for economic growth and development. We find that higher academic achievement reduces the willingness of young Kenyan women to appropriate others’ labor income, and shifts players toward a 50-50 split norm in a modified dictator game. This study demonstrates that education may have long-run impacts on social preferences, norms and institutions beyond the human capital directly produced.

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May 20, 2014
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In Malawi, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our research below offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Malawian poor.

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Brief
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May 01, 2014
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Commitment devices offer an opportunity to restrict future choices. However, if severe restrictions deter participation, weaker restrictions may be a more effective means of changing behavior. We test this using a school-based commitment savings device for educational expenses in Uganda. We compare an account fully-committed to educational expenses to an account in which savings are available for cash withdrawal but intended for educational expenses. The weaker commitment generates increased savings in the program accounts and when combined with a parent outreach program, higher expenditures on educational supplies. It also increases scores on an exam covering language and math skills by 0.11 standard deviations. We find no effect for the fully-committed account, and we find no effect for either account on attendance, enrollment, or non-cognitive skills.

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Working Paper
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May 01, 2014

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