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Working Paper 550 cover
September 15, 2020

A Rosetta Stone for Human Capital

How can we accurately measure the global distribution of skills when people in different countries take different tests? We develop a new methodology to non-parametrically link scores from distinct populations. By administering an exam combining items from different assessments to 2,300 primary students in India, we estimate conversion functions among four of the world’s largest standardized tests spanning 80 countries.

Cover of working paper 546
September 2, 2020

Teacher Labor Markets in Developing Countries

The types of workers recruited into teaching and their allocation across classrooms can greatly influence a country’s stock of human capital. This paper considers how markets and non-market institutions determine the quantity, wages, skills, and spatial distribution of teachers in developing countries.

Cover of working paper 545
August 27, 2020

How Big Are Effect Sizes in International Education Studies?

In recent years, a growing literature has measured the impact of education interventions in low- and middle-income countries on both access and learning outcomes. But interpretation of those effect sizes as large or small tends to rely on benchmarks developed by a psychologist in the United States in the 1960s. In this paper, we demonstrate the distribution of standardized effect sizes on learning and access from hundreds of studies from low- and middle-income countries.

Cover of working paper 544
August 21, 2020

Contact and Commitment to Development: Evidence from Quasi-random Missionary Assignments

Public support for global development in rich countries is critical for sustaining effective government and individual action. But the causes of public support are not well understood. Does spending time living in a developing country play a role in generating individual commitment to development? Addressing this question is fraught with selection bias, as individuals are rarely exogenously assigned to spend time in different countries. In this paper I address this question using a natural experiment—the quasi-random assignment of missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to two-year missions in different world regions. I provide the first causal estimates of the effect of travel to a developing country on attitudes to global development.

Cover of working paper 543
August 19, 2020

Social Protection Amidst Social Upheaval: Examining the Impact of a Multi-Faceted Program for Ultra-Poor Households in Yemen

We study the impact of a multi-faceted social protection program, often referred to as a “graduation” model program, in Yemen during a period of civil unrest. After four years we find positive impacts on asset accumulation and savings behavior, albeit substantially less than the amount the household originally received.

Cover of working paper 542
August 19, 2020

Education in Africa: What Are We Learning?

Countries across Africa continue to face major challenges in education. In this review, we examine 142 recent empirical studies (from 2014 onward) on how to increase access to and improve the quality of education across the continent, specifically examining how these studies update previous research findings.

Cover of working paper 536
July 10, 2020

Trade Liberalization and Chinese Students in US Higher Education

We highlight a lesser known consequence of China’s growth and integration into the world economy in relation to the United States: the rise of services trade. We demonstrate that the US’s trade deficit in goods cycle back as a surplus in exports of education services. Focusing on China’s accession to the World Trade Organization, we show that Chinese cities more exposed to this trade liberalization episode sent more students to US universities.

Cover of working paper 535
June 12, 2020

Predicted COVID-19 Fatality Rates Based on Age, Sex, Comorbidities, and Health System Capacity

Early reports suggest the fatality rate from COVID-19 varies greatly across countries, but it's impossible to directly estimate the infection fatality rate in many low- and middle-income countries. To fill this gap, we estimate the adjustments required to extrapolate estimates of the IFR from high- to lower-income regions.

Cover of working paper 534 (revised)
May 28, 2020

Practical Lessons for Phone-Based Assessments of Learning

In this article, we draw on our pilot testing of phone-based assessments in Botswana, along with the existing literature on oral testing of reading and mathematics, to propose a series of preliminary practical lessons to guide researchers and service providers as they try phone-based learning assessments. We provide preliminary evidence that phone-based assessments can accurately capture basic numeracy skills.

Cover of Working Paper 533
May 14, 2020

The IMF’s Growth Forecasts for Poor Countries Don’t Match Its COVID Narrative

The IMF’s forecasts of GDP growth in 2020 suggest a substantially muted impact of the COVID crisis for developing countries compared to advanced economies. We hope that the relative optimism will not induce complacency and elicit a less-than-forceful response by countries themselves nor legitimize an ungenerous, conditionality-addled response on the part of the international community in the face of an unprecedented calamity.