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Madagascar

How going to the movies helped Ugandan high schoolers pass their tests

David Evans's picture
Also available in: Français
Phiona Mutesa, the real Queen of Katwe.


Who doesn’t enjoy an afternoon at the movies? Yet sometimes a cinema screening can be more than just fun. An experiment in Uganda demonstrates how an inspiring, relatable figure in a movie can actually help students to pass their math exams.

We all benefit from role models, whether it’s in school, work, or our personal life. A role model shows us how we can be more or achieve more. In Madagascar, a role model (in this case, an “educated person with high income, who grew up in the local school district”) sharing her life story at a school significantly increased students’ test performance. (Notably, the effect only materialized when the role model had come from a poor background, not when she came from a well-off background.) In Uganda, women who work in male-dominated sectors – and subsequently make much more money – point to the importance of role models in showing them they can succeed.

Fredo or Michael? Parents play favorites among siblings

Shwetlena Sabarwal's picture

In The Godfather II, Vito Corleone chooses his younger son, Michael, instead of his older son, Fredo, as his successor. This decision is based on Michael's intelligence and ability. Fredo, who is considered weak, is dismissed to do more menial tasks for the family. This has huge implications for Michael, Fredo, and the Corleone saga. 


CC (The Godfather) Image courtesy of Insomnia Cured Here on Flickr

What makes parents decide to "invest" in one child over another? In economics, a key idea is that parents either reinforce or compensate for children’s endowments, such as health or intelligence. They reinforce by investing more in the human capital of their better-endowed children. Or they compensate by investing more in their worse-endowed children to reduce inequality among siblings. The core notion is : either parents are striving for equity (the compensating strategy) or efficiency (the reinforcing strategy of Vito Corleone).