Besides increasing knowledge, there is another potential mechanism at work when information is delivered to a treatment group: increasing the salience of existing knowledge. We use data from a randomized controlled trial of a health information campaign to explore the relative importance of this additional mechanism in a real-world environment. The health information campaign addressed the benefits of wearing eyeglasses and provided information meant to address the common misconceptions that contribute to low adoption rates of eyeglasses. In total, our study sample included 931 students with poor vision (mostly myopia), their parents, and their homeroom teachers in 84 primary schools in rural China. We find that the health information campaign was able to successfully increase student ownership and wearing of eyeglasses, relative to a control group. We demonstrate that the campaign had a larger impact when levels of preexisting information among certain subgroups of participants—namely, parents of students—were higher while we simultaneously provided new information to others. This suggests that the interaction between directed attention (i.e., salience) and baseline knowledge is important. We do not, however, find similar increases among teachers or the students themselves and additionally find no impacts on academic outcomes.
In sub-Saharan Africa, economic aspirations often conflict with aspirations to follow traditional social obligations. We test whether adolescents are influenced by friends when deciding which to prioritize. To do so, we elicit the preferences and perceived competition between economic and social aspirations of 553 Ugandan students, as well as their friendship ties. Using characteristics of nonoverlapping friends as instrumental variables, we identify strong peer effects. They are stronger with more interaction among friends, or when the information shared is more relevant or more important relative to other signals. We find no peer effect on the perceived competition between aspirations.
We investigate the role of overconfidence and trust in farmers’ information-seeking behavior using a lab-in-the-field experiment in Ethiopia. Our results show that overconfidence is widespread among farmers in our sample, predicts less information-seeking, and is associated with an efficiency loss. Moreover, we find that farmers tend to seek more information from extension agents than from peer farmers and that information-seeking increases when the source is perceived as more knowledgeable. When aiming to increase the adoption of productivity-enhancing practices, farmers’ overconfidence in their own information set and their trust in the quality of information shared should not be overlooked.
Business-training programs are typically offered for free. Charging a price for training provides potential benefits such as financial sustainability, but little is known about how price affects demand. We conducted two experiments in Jamaica using the Becker-DeGroot-Marschak (BDM) mechanism and take-it-or-leave-it offers to estimate the demand for training. Most entrepreneurs have positive willingness to pay for training, but demand falls sharply as price increases. Offering the chance to pay in installments does not increase demand. Higher prices screen out poorer, less educated entrepreneurs who have smaller firms. However, charging a higher price does increase attendance among those who pay. Finally, our paper points to the limitations of using a BDM mechanism in a context of low contract enforcement and when payments for purchasing an intangible service do not occur immediately.
Despite the increasing popularity of private secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa, little is known about the return. In this paper, I estimate a private school learning premium in Tanzania, using administrative exam records for 635,000 students. I compare secondary school students with their primary school classmates who achieved the same primary school exam scores and control for peer effects and unobserved ability. On average, private schools improve exam scores by 0.54 of a standard deviation in 2 years. A regression discontinuity design suggests that the effect is causal, and subject-specific estimates are all positive but higher for mathematics relative to Kiswahili and English.
How might South Africa's concentrated income inequality affect the incidence of burglary? Theoretically, burglary increases with income and inequality, but the linearity of these relationships can be interrupted by investment in private security. This idea has not been thoroughly tested before, and South Africa presents an interesting context in which to do so, given its high level of income inequality and fear of crime. We find both income and inequality have inverse U-shaped relationships with burglary, rationalized as the outcome of elites investing in private security. Our results also suggest that income and inequality interact: when precincts are richer, more inequality leads to more burglary, but when precincts are poorer, more inequality leads to less burglary. We suggest that when areas are already poor and unequal, more inequality could mean the widening of an already insurmountable gap between the ability of elites to protect themselves and the ability of low-income individuals to break and enter.
We estimate whether opening of new schools increases educational attainment and affects civic engagement, political participation, and political selection in Malian villages. We compare the differences in educational attainment between individuals below and above the age of 9 as of school opening date by using a donut regression discontinuity design. Opening of schools drastically increases school enrollment. Using this exogenous variation in school enrollment as an instrument, we show that education increases participation in village associations, involvement in local political life, and the number of elected politicians from a village. Most of the effect of education is concentrated among individuals belonging to well-established families. This suggests a redistribution of roles to the dominant group of a village.
Grandparents are an important source of childcare, especially when formal childcare supply is low. In this paper, I explore whether grandmothers’ retirement affects their daughters’ employment when they have young children. I exploit a pension reform in Argentina that induced an arguably exogenous variation in grandmothers’ retirement decisions. I find that mothers of young children coresiding with retirement-eligible grandmothers are significantly more likely to participate in the labor market and to be employed, and the effects are large. Although I find suggestive evidence that the underlying mechanism is an increase in grandmothers’ time availability, I cannot fully rule out an income effect. Also, I find no evidence that the policy affected fertility or household composition.
We estimate the effect of the Rwandan genocide on children born after the genocide using commune variation in genocide intensity and child work and schooling in the 2010 Demographic and Health Survey. We instrument for killings with the commune’s distance to the Ugandan border. Doubling killings per capita increases the probability of a child working by 3.35 percentage points and decreases the probability of a child attending school by 3.68 percentage points. Our results suggest a long-term impact of the genocide likely to affect Rwanda’s development into the future.
In light of global climate change, the variance of rainfall is projected to increase substantially, affecting every country. In this paper, we examine how exposure to rainfall during the first 1,000 days of life influences women’s long-term human capital accumulation in the context of 28 African countries. Exploiting the exogenous deviations of rainfall from the historical norms, we document a positive relationship between rainfall during the first 1,000 days and women’s educational attainment. The effects mostly come from rainfall variability in agricultural season. There is also suggestive evidence that larger impacts are detected among women from low-income countries and women living in areas with poor market integration.
People often underestimate the time it takes to complete a task. We investigate the causes of such overoptimism through a lab-in-the-field experiment with microfinance clients in Bolivia testing the contribution of uncertainty, personality, and financial incentives. Our results are consistent with theories of time-inconsistent beliefs postulating the existence of anticipatory benefits, where the incentives at stake shape optimism. Correlational evidence also suggests that optimists have greater real-life outstanding debt. We propose that time preference models be adjusted to include anticipatory utility and that the role of repayment incentives in shaping overoptimistic expectations of microfinance clients should not be overlooked.