Michele Giannola

Welcome! I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics and Statistics at the University of Naples Federico II. I study topics relating to the economics of education, household economics, and human capital formation.  

I am also a Research Fellow at CSEF, and a Research Associate at the Institute for Fiscal Studies

I received my Ph.D. in Economics from University College London

My  CV is available here.
Email:  michele.giannola@unina.it
Twitter: @GiannolaMichele



Abstract: We exploit the randomized evaluation of a remedial education intervention that improved the reading skills of low-performing third grade students in Colombia, to study whether providing educational support to low-achieving students affects the academic performance of their higher-achieving classmates. We find that the test scores of non-treated children in treatment schools increased by 0.108 of a standard deviation compared to similar children in control schools. We interpret the reduced-form effect on higher-achieving students as a spillover effect within treated schools. We then estimate a linear-in-means model of peer effects, finding that a one-standard-deviation increase in peers’ contemporaneous achievement increases individual test scores by 0.679 of a standard deviation. Our findings show that policies aimed at improving the bottom of the achievement distribution have the potential to generate social-multiplier effects that benefit all.

Working Papers

Parental Investments and Intra-household Inequality in Child Human Capital: Evidence from a Survey Experiment, IFS Working Paper W22/54, CSEF Working Paper, No. 650  Conditionally Accept, The Economic Journal
This paper was awarded the Prize in memory of Maria Concetta Chiuri by  the Italian Society of Public Economics for an outstanding paper written by an author under the age of forty. 

Abstract: Intra-household inequality explains up to 50 percent of the cross-sectional variation in child human capital in the developing world. I study the role played by parents’ educational investment to explain this inequality and its determinants. To mitigate the identification problem posed by observational data, I design a survey experiment with poor households in India. I develop new theory-driven survey measures based on hypothetical scenarios that allow me to separately identify parents’ beliefs about the human capital production function and their preferences for inequality in children’s outcomes, as well as study the role of household resources. I find that investment decisions are driven by efficiency considerations rather than inequality concerns over children’s final outcomes. Because parents perceive investment to be 12 percent more productive for the higher-ability child, they allocate 10 percent more educational inputs to this child. Resources are important, as constrained parents select more unequal allocations. Counterfactual simulations indicate that policy interventions can have important intra-household distributional impacts through parents’ behavioural responses.

Abstract: Early childhood development is recognized as a global priority, but questions remain regarding how to best serve the needs of disadvantaged children in low- and middle-income countries. We study the effects of a high-quality center-based early childhood intervention on the development of disadvantaged children in Colombia. We conduct a randomized controlled trial with over 1000 children followed longitudinally over a five-year period. The intervention leads to positive and sustained effects on children’s health, and positive effects on cognitive development that dissipate in the last year of the program. We find no effect on socio-emotional development or on the home environment. 

Abstract: When deciding how to allocate their time among different types of investment in their children, parents weigh up the perceived benefits and costs of different activities. During the COVID-19 outbreak parents had to consider a new cost dimension when making this decision: the perceived health risks associated with contracting the virus. What role did parental beliefs about risks and returns play for the allocation of time with children during the pandemic? We answer this question by collecting rich data on a sample of first-time parents in England during the first lockdown, including elicitation of perceived risks and returns to different activities via hypothetical scenarios. We find that parents perceive their own time investment to be (i) more productive and (ii) less risky than the time spent by their children in formal childcare or with peers. Using open-ended questions about their pandemic experience and detailed time use data on children’s daily activities, we then show that parental beliefs are predictive of actual investment choices, and are correlated with parental feelings derived from sentiment analysis. Lastly, we show that less educated parents perceive both lower returns and lower risks from investments, potentially causing a further widening of pre-existing inequalities in early years development, and suggesting the need for targeted informational interventions.

Abstract: This paper uses the data on child development collected around the evaluation of a nursery program to estimate the details of the process of human development. We model development as made of three latent factors, reflecting health, cognitive and socio-emotional skills. We observe children from age 1 to age 7. We assume that, at each age, these factors interact among themselves and with a variety of other inputs to determine the level of development at following ages. Relative to other studies, the richness of the data we use allows us to: (i) let the dynamics be rich and flexible; (ii) let each factors play a role in the production of any other factor; (iii) estimate age-specific functional forms; (iv) treat parental investment as an endogenous input. We find that the dynamics of the process can be richer than usually assumed, which has important implications for the degree of persistence of different inputs in time. Persistence also changes with age. This has important implications for the targeting of investment and interventions, and the identification of windows of opportunities. The endogeneity of investment is also important.

Selected Work in Progress

The Joint Role of School and Home Inputs in Children’s Learning, with Pedro Carneiro, Anusha Guha and Sonya Krutikova

Abstract: In this project, we study the joint role that home and school inputs play in the learning process of  primary school children in Vietnam. Vietnam is unique among Lower and Middle Income Countries (LMIC) in the exceptionally high learning levels which are achieved for its level of wealth. Our paper contributes to understanding how this is achieved and lessons that can be learned for improving poor learning outcomes that characterize many LMIC settings.  The project aims to shed lights on the combined role of school and home investments, traditionally studied in parallel literatures, and on their interactions. Furthermore, our design and rich data-set allows us to study parental response to school inputs.  

The Impacts of Relaxing Credit and Information Constraints on Human Capital in the Early Years: Experimental Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa, with the Africa Gender Innovation Lab, Project in the field, AEA RCT Registry: AEARCTR-0003506

Policy Reports

Évaluation d’impact du projet Tekavoul en Mauritanie: Rapport de l'Enquête de Référence, World Bank, 2019, with Jean-Noël Batiobo, Ioana Botea and Julia Vaillant, In French.


I was awarded the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Economics Department at UCL  in 2018 and in 2020.