This paper provides causal evidence on the effects of attending better schools on students' academic performance, self-perceptions, aspirations, and subsequent schooling choices. Students in Mexico City are assigned to public middle schools based on the results of a placement exam. The morning shift in double-shift schools is often oversubscribed, leading to the stratification of school shifts by test score results. Using the cut-off scores for the morning shifts as exogenous variation in school offers, I find that students who have the opportunity to attend more selective schools experience small improvements in standardized language scores but perform worse on non-standardized school-based assessments. These students have lower grade point averages and are less likely to pass all the courses required to complete middle school. I provide evidence to suggest that students evaluate themselves based on their relative performance: marginally admitted students report feeling academically inferior to their peers, have lower self-reported perseverance and time management scores, and are more likely to shift their aspirations and subsequent schooling choices from academic to vocational programs. These findings highlight the importance of frames of reference in educational settings and the potential trade-offs between a better school and a worse position in the ability distribution.
Every year over 1.3 million children in rural Mexico attend telesecundarias, middle schools with classes transmitted through satellite television. Telesecundarias operate like conventional schools but replace the need for on-site specialized teachers with televised content. While highly criticized, we know very little about the effectiveness of this model of distance learning. This paper estimates the educational and labor market outcomes of adolescents living in areas with no middle schools who were exposed to a telesecundaria expansion policy in 1994. I obtain causal estimates by exploiting geographical differences in the intensity of school openings and differences in cohort exposure induced by the timing of the policy. The estimates suggest that an additional telesecundaria per 1,000 adolescents led to an average increase of 0.22 years of education and a 9% increase in monthly earnings, arising from both an increase in individuals’ labor supply and a higher wage.
Agricultural extension is one of the main policy instruments used by governments to disseminate and increase the adoption of modern agricultural technologies among farmers. This paper provides experimental evidence on the effects of two extension models as implemented by a Kenyan public agency: farmer field days and SMS-based extension. We find little effects of the SMS-based intervention on farmer knowledge and input adoption. The farmer field days increased knowledge and changed beliefs about input profitability but this only translated into modest increases in adoption of inputs. We find no consistent evidence of heterogeneous treatment effects based on gender, income or education. Using simple cost and revenue estimates, we conclude that these interventions, as implemented, were not cost-effective at increasing the use of agricultural technologies in the short term.
Many agricultural extension services in developing countries continue to provide blanket recommendations to farmers despite large heterogeneity in local agronomic needs. More fine-tuned agricultural management could increase input profitability and limit environmental impacts. Mobile phone extension has the potential to reach farmers at scale at a low-cost, while also providing them with personalized information. We conduct a randomized control trial of a phone-based extension program with a sample of 6,000 smallholder Kenyan farmers recruited through input shops. We construct predictive maps using soil data and provide farmers with area-specific information about soil acidity and use of agricultural lime, an input used to increase soil pH. Using survey data and administrative records collected from the redemption of discount coupons distributed to farmers in treatment and control arms, we find that the intervention increased the probability of following the local recommendations by 3-7 percentage points (corresponding to a 10%-23% increase). We find that the program was effective at increasing the use of agricultural lime in high-acidity areas and reducing it in non- acidic areas.
New technologies allow to collect and disseminate much more localized agricultural information to farmers. A social planner would invest in knowledge generation if the sum of the benefits to all agents exceeds the cost. However, decentralized markets may not yield the socially optimal outcome, due to the non-rivalry of knowledge and other distortions in information markets. We discuss implications for the types of institutions that might be appropriate in these contexts and the potential for mobile-phone based agricultural extension to provide personalized information tailored to farm and farmer characteristics. In particular, we discuss the possibility of a "Netflix for Agriculture" in which farmers would provide information on their experiences with different inputs and practices, knowing that the system would make better recommendations for them, and in turn, improve the performance of the system in offering recommendations to others.
Starting in the 1940s the government of Puerto Rico redistributed land to landless peasants through a series of public lotteries. However, like many other land reforms in Latin America, property rights over these plots were incomplete and new occupants were severely restricted on how they could employ them. The extent to which the benefits from receiving land were negated by these frictions is an open question. We estimate the long-term effects of this reform on longevity and migration by linking lottery archival records to data from the US Social Security death master file. In ongoing work, we plan to link this to a newly constructed dataset that will contain information on individuals’ education levels, occupation, marital status, retirement age and cause and place of death.
Martin Abel, Megan Blair, Raissa Fabregas, Kamilla Gumede, and Murray Leibbrandt. 2014. “Youth Employment in South Africa.” In Youth and Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa: Working but Poor, Pp. 356. Routledge.