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An image of the working paper.
December 1, 2021

Understanding Education Policy Preferences: Survey Experiments with Policymakers in 35 Developing Countries

Foreign aid donors and international organizations supporting education in developing countries have increasingly coalesced around a policy agenda prioritizing foundational learning, measured by test scores in primary school, based on a diagnosis of deficient school quality, and a growing body of empirical evidence about effective interventions to improve quality. We survey over 900 senior government officials working on education in 35 low- and middle-income countries to gauge their alignment with this agenda.

An image of the working paper.
October 19, 2021

Girls’ Education at Scale

Many educational interventions boost outcomes for girls in settings where girls face educational disadvantages, but which of those interventions are proven to function effectively at large scale? In contrast to earlier reviews, this review focuses on large-scale programs and policies—those that reach at least 10,000 students—and on final school outcomes such as completion and student learning rather than intermediate school outcomes such as enrollment and attendance.

An image of the working paper.
October 14, 2021

Labour Mobility with Vocational Skill: Australian Demand and Pacific Supply

How many immigrants with less than university education, for a given immigration quota, maximise economic output? The answer is simple—zero—in the canonical model of the labour market, where the marginal product of a university-educated immigrant is always higher. We build an alternative model, following Jones (2005), in which national production occurs through a set of Leontief production functions that shift over time with technological change.

An image of the working paper.
September 29, 2021

Whatever Happened to Privatization? The World Bank and Divestiture: 1980–2020

This paper describes the rise and fall of privatization in the World Bank as a means to improve the performance of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in its client countries. While acknowledging that privatization was far more difficult than anticipated to implement correctly, particularly in low-income and institutionally weak countries, the continuing difficulty of applying technical fixes to still large, still underperforming, and still capital-short SOE sectors justifies a renewed attempt at privatization

John Nellis
Cover of working paper 589
July 20, 2021

Three New Estimates of India’s All-Cause Excess Mortality during the COVID-19 Pandemic

India lacks an authoritative estimate of the death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic. We report excess mortality estimates from three different data sources from the pandemic’s start through June 2021. Estimating COVID-deaths with statistical confidence may prove elusive. But all estimates suggest that the death toll from the pandemic is likely to be an order of magnitude greater than the official count of 400,000; they also suggest that the first wave was more lethal than is believed.

July 1, 2021

The Indirect Health Effects of COVID-19: Emerging Findings from Kenya, the Philippines, South Africa, and Uganda

COVID-19 has caused significant morbidity and mortality, both directly and indirectly via the disruption to routine health services. Evidence on the indirect health impacts has largely been anecdotal or modeled, and cause/program-specific. We aimed to document the indirect health impacts in four countries with different experiences: Kenya, the Philippines, South Africa, and Uganda.

Diana Beatriz S. Bayani , Carleigh Krubiner , Edwine Barasa , Claire Biribawa , Alexander Broadbent , Lyle Casas , Kalipso Chalkidou , Y-Ling Chi , Herkulaas Combrink , Okethwangu Denis , Mary Kaakyo , Evelyn Kabia , Kadondi Kasera , Jacob Kazungu , Morris Ogero , Stacey Organi , Anton Paterno , Lydia Regan , Benjamin Smart , Piet Streicher , Justin Tan , Nazarius Tumwesigye , Valerie Gilbert Ulep , Jhanna Uy , Vanessa Siy Van and Damian Walker
June 22, 2021

The Unfolding of Women’s Economic Empowerment Outcomes: Time Path of Impacts in an Indonesia Trial

This paper makes the case that some interventions designed to improve women’s economic lives need to be tracked long enough for women to manifest new and beneficial behaviors. The study analyzes the time paths of the estimated impacts in a randomized trial providing financial incentives to bank agents (on the supply-side) and basic business training to women business owners (on the demand-side) for them to access and use formal financial services.

June 15, 2021

Texts Don’t Nudge: An Adaptive Trial to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 in India

We conduct an adaptive randomized controlled trial to evaluate the impact of a SMS-based information campaign on the adoption of social distancing and handwashing in rural Bihar, India, six months into the COVID-19 pandemic. We test 10 arms that vary in delivery timing and message framing, changing content to highlight gains or losses for either one’s own family or community.Our results suggest that SMS-based information campaigns may have limited efficacy after the initial phase of a pandemic.

Cover of Working Paper 584
June 14, 2021

Can Africa Help Europe Avoid Its Looming Aging Crisis?

There will be 95 million fewer working-age people in Europe in 2050 than in 2015, under business as usual. The paper compares business as usual estimates of inflows to 2050 with the size of the labor gap in Europe. Under plausible estimates, business as usual will fill one-third of the labor gap. This suggests a need for an urgent shift if Europe is to avoid an aging crisis. Africa is the obvious source of immigrants, to mutual benefit.

June 7, 2021

The Insurance Cascade Framework to Diagnose Bottlenecks and Improve the Effectiveness of Health Insurance Programs: An Application to India

Many low- and middle-income countries are looking to achieve universal health coverage by implementing large social health insurance schemes. India has been a frontrunner in this effort, introducing state and national health insurance schemes, especially for tertiary care. Despite these efforts, Indian households remain at risk of high out-of-pocket spending due to inpatient hospitalizations. We examine bottlenecks to the effectiveness of health insurance schemes in India by using the “insurance cascade,” a framework that traces the steps from enrolling eligible households to ultimately delivering their benefits at no charge.

Cover of working paper 581
May 12, 2021

Do High-Stakes Exams Promote Consistent Educational Standards?

Each year over two million secondary-school students across English-speaking West Africa sit coordinated exams, with the explicit goal of maintaining consistent educational standards across schools and over time. We find that scores across math items drawn from different exam years—when taken by an identical group of students on the same day—closely track fluctuations in Ghana’s national pass rates over time, absent any role for cheating or changes in real performance.

May 11, 2021

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Social Health Insurance Claims for High-Burden Diseases in the Philippines

In the Philippines, anecdotes on the dwindling use of essential healthcare services as an indirect consequence of COVID-19 pandemic are mounting, but compelling evidence remains scarce up to this day. In this study, we examined the magnitude of decline in insurance claims of twelve high burden diseases and five common procedures from 1,286 public and private hospitals.

Valerie Gilbert Ulep , Anton Paterno , Jhanna Uy , Vanessa Siy Van , Lyle Casas and Justin Tan
May 4, 2021

Should Governments and Donors Prioritize Investments in Foundational Literacy and Numeracy?

Students around the world lack foundational literacy and numeracy skills at striking rates. This essay examines the potential channels by which FLN investments and skills—which most systems teach in the early grades of primary school—may impact later schooling and subsequent life outcomes and the existing evidence for each channel. We find suggestive evidence for widening trajectories in school between students who master FLN skills in early grades and those who do not, although other factors may also explain the widening gaps.