Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Publications

 

Cover of Working Paper 521
December 15, 2019

Beyond Short-term Learning Gains: The Impact of Outsourcing Schools in Liberia after Three Years

After one year, outsourcing the management of ninety-three randomly-selected government primary schools in Liberia to eight private operators led to modest learning gains. In this paper, we revisit the program two years later. Despite facing similar contracts and settings, some providers produced uniformly positive results, while others present stark trade-offs between learning gains, access to education, child safety, and financial sustainability.

September 7, 2017

Can a Public-Private Partnership Improve Liberia’s Schools?

After one year, public schools managed by private operators raised student learning by 60 percent compared to standard public schools. But costs were high, performance varied across operators, and contracts authorized the largest operator to push excess pupils and under-performing teachers into other government schools.

Mauricio Romero , Justin Sandefur and Wayne Aaron Sandholtz
June 21, 2017

Measuring Rents from Public Employment: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from Kenya - Working Paper 457

Public employees in many developing economies earn much higher wages than similar private-sector workers. These wage premia may reflect an efficient return to effort or unobserved skills, or an inefficient rent causing labor misallocation. To distinguish these explanations, we exploit the Kenyan government’s algorithm for hiring eighteen-thousand new teachers in 2010 in a regression discontinuity design. Fuzzy regression discontinuity estimates yield a civil-service wage premium of over 100 percent (not attributable to observed or unobserved skills), but no effect on motivation, suggesting rent-sharing as the most plausible explanation for the wage premium.

Nicholas Barton , Tessa Bold and Justin Sandefur
December 2, 2016

Internationally Comparable Mathematics Scores for Fourteen African Countries - Working Paper 444

Internationally comparable test scores play a central role in both research and policy debates on education. However, the main international testing regimes, such as PISA, TIMSS, or PIRLS, include very few low-income countries. For instance, most countries in Southern and Eastern Africa have opted instead for a regional assessment known as SACMEQ. This paper exploits an overlap between the SACMEQ and TIMSS tests—in both country coverage, and questions asked—to assess the feasibility of constructing global learning metrics by equating regional and international scales. I find that learning levels in this sample of African countries are consistently (a) low in absolute terms; (b) significantly lower than predicted by African per capita GDP levels; and (c) converging slowly, if at all, to the rest of the world during the 2000s. Creating test scores which are truly internationally comparable would be a global public good, requiring more concerted effort at the design stage.