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.
Education policy has recently focused on improving accountability and incentives of public providers for actual learning outcomes, often with school-based rewards programs for high performers. The Learning Guarantee Programme in Karnataka, India, is prominent among such efforts, providing cash transfers to government schools that achieve learning at specified high levels. This study examines whether schools that self-selected into the incentive program are different than those that did not. The answer has important implications for how to evaluate the impact of such a program. Although we find no significant differences in resources and characteristics, we do find significant and substantial differences in test scores prior to selection into the program, with better performing schools more likely to opt-in. These findings also provide insight into how incentive-based programs that focus on levels of (rather than changes in) achievement can exacerbate inequality in education. Failing schools, since they are more likely to opt-out of incentive programs, are likely to require other targeted programs in order to improve. In addition, our findings reinforce the value of randomized controlled trials to evaluate incentive programs since evaluations that rely on matching schools based on resources (if, for instance, pre-program test scores are unavailable) will be biased if resources poorly predict test scores.
This paper presents the results of two randomized experiments conducted in schools in urban India. A remedial education program hired young women to teach students lagging behind in basic literacy and numeracy skills. It increased average test scores of all children in treatment schools by 0.28 standard deviation, mostly due to large gains experienced by children at the bottom of the test-score distribution. A computer-assisted learning program focusing on math increased math scores by 0.47 standard deviation. One year after the programs were over initial gains remained significant for targeted children, but they faded to about 0.10 standard deviation.
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.
Anemia is among the most widespread health problems for children in developing countries. This paper evaluates the impact of a randomized health intervention delivering iron supplementation and deworming drugs to Indian preschool children. At baseline 69 percent were anemic and 30 percent had intestinal worm infections. Weight increased among assisted children, and preschool participation rates rose by 5.8 percentage points, reducing absenteeism by one fifth. Gains were especially pronounced for those most likely to be anemic at baseline. Results contribute to a growing view that school-based health programs are an effective way of promoting school attendance in less developed countries.
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.
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.
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.
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.