Graduating from college remains one of the best routes out of poverty. Recent research shows that returns to higher education are now larger than the returns to any other education sector, and they are particularly large for low-income countries. In low- and middle-income countries, the private (wage) returns to accessing higher education are 26.8 percent and 20.2 percent, respectively, relative to obtaining a high school degree. Women tend to have higher rates of return than men, and there is even some evidence (from the United States) that children from poor families benefit the most from higher education.
Amidst all the noise of the 24-hour news cycle and current events competing for our attention there lurks a danger that we lose sight of our mission: the fundamental issues in development that we are committed to solve remain urgent and obviously relevant. Now more than ever, the World Bank and DEC (home to the Bank’s research unit) in particular should focus on core research questions whose answers can help end poverty and improve countless lives. These questions rise above the ebb and flow of the political tide and are deeply important to the millions of people that we strive to raise up.
Reform leaders who are persuaded by the need to invest in human capital face the challenge of getting thousands of state personnel, who staff myriad government agencies, to deliver. The quintessential “delivery unit” in Africa, a region flagged by the Human Capital Index as having the greatest need for health and education investments, consists of local governments helmed by appointed bureaucrats and locally elected politicians. In new research in Uganda, we find that the quality of local politicians, elected at humble levels in a village or district, is a robust and substantial predictor of delivery of national health programs. These results suggest that for the Human Capital Project to have impact it may need to move beyond creating political space for national leaders to allocate more public resources to health and education and take-on the challenge of local politics as key to service delivery at the last mile.
The Economist recently published an article about the promise of technology to improve the quality of education in low- and middle-income countries. It gives a balanced view of technology’s potential: It isn’t “a substitute for well-qualified, motivated teachers” and in order to work, “tech innovations need the acceptance of teachers and administrators.” But it can help teachers to manage classrooms with students at dramatically different learning levels, and it can help administrators to monitor teacher performance. The examples in the articles are backed up by high-quality studies of the impact of educational technology on student learning.
Poverty is a complex concept. A widespread view argues that important aspects of poverty cannot be measured in monetary terms – in fact, to successfully address poverty, we need to measure it in all its facets. The recent release of the 2018 edition of the Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report contains Global measures of multidimensional poverty have a rich history, a prominent example being the annual Global MPI produced by the United Nations Development Programme with the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative.
Happy World Teachers’ Day! No part of the school experience has greater potential to set students on a path to success than a great teacher. Likewise, researchers are constantly seeking to learn how education systems can help students learn the most from their teachers. Here are 10 studies from recent months on helping teachers to be their best.
Labels matter. Girls who are reminded of stereotypes about how girls perform in math do worse on math exams (in some circumstances). Publicly revealing the caste of students in India led to worse performance of students from castes that were traditionally lower in the caste hierarchy. In the U.S., posting a banner with vegetables in the form of cartoon characters increased schoolchildren’s consumption of vegetables by 90 percent. These are all forms of labeling. New research suggests that labeling matters in school scholarships – merit-based versus needs-based – as well.
In most economies, parents would like to see their children have a higher standard of living, and with it a better life, than they had themselves. When children are asked, they too tend to consider their parents a natural benchmark to compare their economic progress against (Goldthorpe, 1987; Hoschschild, 2016, Chetty at al., 2017). A simple measure that captures this notion of progress is the percentage of children who managed to surpass their parents, which we will refer to as absolute mobility. Chetty et al. (2017) find that the United States did exceptionally well by this measure for the generations born in the 1940s and 50s, when over 90 percent of children managed to do better than their parents in terms of income. Absolute mobility in the United States has since faded to around 50 percent for the current generation. How has absolute mobility fared elsewhere in the world? In which economies do children have the best chances to improve upon their parents? Are the highest rates of absolute mobility observed in economies that are starting from a low base?
In a sector where a proliferation of research seemingly has contributed at least as much to confusion as to progress, the 2018 World Development Report (WDR), Learning to Realize Education’s Promise sheds new light, and points towards fresh, hopeful pathways forward. It is a landmark contribution.
“Education for all” was the seductive promise of the millennium. Yet all too many children are attending school without acquiring even basic literacy or numeracy. Why?