Research

Cash transfers and education for vulnerable children: Evidence from Tanzania. With David K. Evans and Katrina Kosec. Center for Global Development working paper. Blog post

Cash transfers boost educational outcomes for poor children on average, but among the poor, which children benefit most? This study examines the educational impacts of cash transfers for children facing different challenges (e.g., being girls, orphans, among the poorest, and having low baseline exam performance), drawing on a randomized, community implemented conditional cash transfer program targeted to poor households in Tanzania. On average, being assigned to receive transfers significantly improves children’s school participation (by between 8 and 10 percentage points) and primary completion rates (by between 14 and 16 percentage points). Differing point estimates suggest that gains are unequally distributed across children. As a result of the program, the poorest children are more likely to ever have attended school, whereas the less poor are more likely to complete primary school. Boys and girls benefit similarly. Educational gains are concentrated among students performing better in school at baseline.

Expanding Federal Support for Pre-K: Access, Quality, and the Teacher Workforce. (working paper available on request).

Pre-K enrollment has doubled in the U.S. over the past 30 years, and much of this increase has been accounted for by private, local, and state-supported programs. However with large inequities remaining across states, can new federal investments address disparities and improve quality? To answer these questions, I draw on evidence from the Preschool Development Grants (2015-2018), a federal program that administered $1 billion in competitive funding to states. The grants distinguished states based on prior coverage of age-appropriate children, allowing for separate analyses of two policy relevant groups. Using a difference-in-differences framework, I show that in school districts receiving federal funding in states with nascent programs, public pre-K access increased by 18% and enrollment by 52%. These effects are significantly more pronounced in districts with higher concentrations of students receiving free and reduced price lunch. In school districts receiving federal funding in states with larger programs, there were no effects on access or enrollment but large and significant increases in the availability of teachers. In contrast to lower access states however, these increases were concentrated in districts with greater relative advantage. Tentative results show that math achievement by grade 3 was lower in districts exposed to grant funding, and further work will examine effects on learning outcomes at Kindergarten entry. Collectively, this work suggests federal efforts to improve access and quality in public pre-K have been successful, but efforts to address disparities in outcomes for children may depend on state-specific contextual factors.