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.
Colombia's PACES program provided over 125,000 poor children with vouchers that covered half the cost of private secondary school. The vouchers were renewable annually conditional on adequate academic progress. Since many vouchers were assigned by lottery, program effects can reliably be assessed by comparing lottery winners and losers. Estimates using administrative records suggest the PACES program increased secondary school completion rates by 15-20 percent. Correcting for the greater percentage of lottery winners taking college admissions tests, the program increased test scores by two-tenths of a standard deviation in the distribution of potential test scores. Boys, who have lower scores than girls in this population, show larger test score gains, especially in math.
This paper reviews recent randomized evaluations of educational programs in developing countries, including programs to increase school participation, to provide educational inputs, and to reform education. It then extracts some lessons for education policy and for the practice and political economy of randomized evaluations
Kenya’s education system blends substantial centralization with elements of local control and school choice. This paper argues that the system creates incentives for local communities to build too many small schools; to spend too much on teachers relative to non-teacher inputs; and to set school fees that exceed those preferred by the median voter and prevent many children from attending school. Moreover, the system renders the incentive effects of school choice counterproductive by undermining the tendency for pupils to switch into the schools with the best headmasters. A randomized evaluation of a program operated by a non-profit organization suggests that budget-neutral reductions in the cost of attending school and increases in non-teacher inputs, financed by increases in class size, would greatly reduce dropout rates without reducing test scores. Moreover, evidence based on transfers into and out of program schools suggests that the population would prefer such a reallocation of expenditures.
Colombia used lotteries to distribute vouchers which partially covered the cost of private secondary school for students who maintained satisfactory academic progress. Three years after the lotteries, winners were about 10 percentage points more likely to have finished 8th grade, primarily because they were less likely to repeat grades, and scored 0.2 standard deviations higher on achievement tests. There is some evidence that winners worked less than losers and were less likely to marry or cohabit as teenagers. BeneŽts to participantslikely exceeded the $24 per winner additional cost to the government of supplying vouchers instead of public school places.
Between 1973 and 1978, the Indonesian Government constructed over 61,000 primary schools throughout the country. This is one of the largest school construction programs on record. I evaluate the effect of this program on education and wages by combining differences across regions in the number of schools constructed with differences across cohorts induced by the timing of the program. The estimates suggest that the construction of primary schools led to an increase in education and earnings. Children ages 2 to 6 in 1974 received 0.12 to 0.19 more years of education for each school constructed per 1,000 children in their region of birth. Using the variations in schooling generated by this policy as instrumental variables for the impact of education on wages generates estimates of economic returns to education ranging from 6.8 percent to 10.6 percent.