Work In Progress
What You Learned by Second Grade Matters - A Comparative Study in Madagascar and Senegal
with Heidi Kalia and David Sahn
Revisions Requested, Journal of African Economies
We study the determinants of human capital outcomes of young adults in Madagascar and Senegal, employing a production function approach. Using unique and comparable long-term panel data sets from both countries, which span more than 15 years, we find that test scores in second grade are strong predictors of school attainment and French/math skills of individuals in their early twenties. The association between second-grade skills and later-life outcomes is stronger among girls than boys, and likewise, stronger for math than French test scores. These findings highlight the importance of not falling behind during early school years, as it can lead to worse long-term outcomes, particularly for vulnerable groups like girls. We also find that height, a proxy measure of childhood health and nutritional status, does not affect the magnitude and significance of early childhood test scores, and also has an independent effect on young adult test scores in Senegal.
Mental Health and Education: Average and Distributional Effects in the Long Run
with Yanan Li
In 1986, China implemented a Compulsory Schooling Law (CSL) which made it mandatory for all school age children to complete nine years of education. We use the temporal and geographic variation in the implementation of this law in a regression discontinuity design to estimate its effect on long-term psychological well-being of beneficiaries. Our results indicate that beneficiary cohorts had 0.6 years of additional education. Almost three decades later, these cohorts scored around two points (16 percent of the mean) lower on a clinical measure of depression, while they were 19 p.p. (65 percent of the mean) less likely to be depressed (severe mental distress). This disproportionate effect on the probability of being depressed is because of the relatively large impact of the CSL policy on people with worse mental health – we establish this through a variety of distributional analyses. Also, we find that women and rural residents show higher gains, both in educational and psychological well-being. The mental health effects plausibly operate through improved physical health and positive assortative matching in the marriage market. These findings add to the evidence on the positive effect of education on health outcomes by bringing forth novel evidence of mental health benefits in a developing country context.
Health Insurance and Infant Mortality: Evidence from India
with Anaka Aiyar
Recent evidence from low- and middle-income countries on the effect of health insurance provision on child health provide mixed results. We bring novel evidence based on a national health insurance policy in India. We leverage the temporal and spatial variation in policy implementation to demonstrate that programme regions had lower rates of infant mortality (5 percent). The effects are largely concentrated among girls and infants in poorer households. The observed findings are plausibly driven by increases in usage of maternal and child health related services. Since a majority of these services are ubiquitously available and are free (or highly subsidized) in India, our findings indicate that provision of health insurance can alleviate budgetary constraints imposed by miscellaneous expenses associated with accessing health services.
Obesity-Education Gradient among Women: Evidence from two African countries
with Averi Chakrabarti
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