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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.

Refocusing Gavi CGD brief
February 9, 2015

Refocusing Gavi for Greater Impact

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, pools donor funds to increase immunization rates in developing countries. Vaccines have saved millions of lives. Results from new research at the Center for Global Development suggest Gavi could save more lives by shifting support away from lower-cost vaccines provided to middle-income countries toward more underused vaccines and support to the poorest countries.

December 17, 2013

Let the People Go: The Problem with Strict Migration Limits

Originally published in Foreign Affairs. 

On May 29, 2013, British immigration officers raided the Alternative Tuck Shop, a café just down the road from Oxford University’s economics department, where South Asian and Middle Eastern employees serve tea, scones, and sandwiches. The agents seized two young men, one from Bangladesh and one from Algeria, under suspicion of working in the United Kingdom without authorization. And they shuttered the business temporarily, meaning that hungry Oxford economists would have to walk farther down Holywell Street for their midday panini.

October 15, 2013

Here’s the Best Thing the United States Has Done in Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s progress against mortality reflects the success of providing health aid that differed radically from the bulk of American aid to Afghanistan during the war. The USAID program that contributed to the decline was a multilateral effort coordinated by Afghanistan’s own Ministry of Public Health. Results were verified by random sampling, and some funding was linked to measures of performance. This internal policy experiment, however, was destined to provoke resistance. More surprising is the source of resistance to an aid program that attempted to stop simply throwing money at a problem and focus on building sustainable systems: auditors.

August 7, 2013

Context Matters for Size: Why External Validity Claims and Development Practice Don't Mix - Working Paper 336

In this paper we examine how policymakers and practitioners should interpret the impact evaluation literature when presented with conflicting experimental and non-experimental estimates of the same intervention across varying contexts. We show three things. First, as is well known, non-experimental estimates of a treatment effect comprise a causal treatment effect and a bias term due to endogenous selection into treatment. When non-experimental estimates vary across contexts any claim for external validity of an experimental result must make the assumption that (a) treatment effects are constant across contexts, while (b) selection processes vary across contexts. This assumption is rarely stated or defended in systematic reviews of evidence. Second, as an illustration of these issues, we examine two thoroughly researched literatures in the economics of education—class size effects and gains from private schooling—which provide experimental and non-experimental estimates of causal effects from the same context and across multiple contexts.

March 27, 2013

Scaling Up What Works: Experimental Evidence on External Validity in Kenyan Education - Working Paper 321

We investigate heterogeneity across beneficiaries and implementers—in a randomized trial of contract teachers in Kenyan schools. The data show a stark contrast in success between the government and NGO arm that can be traced back to implementation constraints and political economy forces put in motion as the program went to scale.

Tessa Bold , Mwangi Kimenyi , Germano Mwabu , Alice Ng'ang'a and Justin Sandefur