This is the seventh in this year's series of posts by PhD students on the job market.
Conditional cash transfers (CCTs), cash transfers targeted to poor households made conditional on investments in children's human capital, have become increasingly popular over the past two decades (Bastagli et al, 2016). However, CCTs have been criticized as some argue that the poorest households may find the conditions too costly to comply with and thus be excluded from receiving aid (e.g., Freeland, 2007, Baird et al, 2011). Unconditional cash transfers (UCTs), cash transfers with “no strings attached”, are therefore thought to be superior at alleviating current poverty. Consequently, when deciding whether to impose conditions, governments are thought to trade-off the extent to which they increase human capital investments in children versus the extent to which they alleviate current poverty.
In Gaile Parkin's novel Baking Cakes in Kigali, two women living in Kigali, Rwanda – Angel and Sophie – argue over the salary paid to a development worker: "Perhaps these big organisations needed to pay big salaries if they wanted to attract the right kind of people; but Sophie had said that they were the wrong kind of people if they would not do the work for less. Ultimately they had concluded that the desire to make the world a better place was not something that belonged in a person's pocket. No, it belonged in a person's heart."
It's not a leap to believe – like Angel and Sophie – that teachers should want to help students learn, health workers who want help people heal, and other workers in service delivery should want to deliver that service. But how do you attract and motivate those passionate public servants? Here is some recent research that sheds light on the topic.
Gonzalo was part of a panel with David McKenzie at a recent meeting of the Impact Evaluation Network (IEN). One of the questions during this discussion was whether there were good examples of cases where impact evaluations had found null or negative results, and policymakers had actually changed policy as a result. We thought others would be interested in hearing his examples from Mexico.
It feels like a cold water shower when impact evaluations (IEs) do not show positive impacts. Those studies are neither sexy for academic publication nor for public policy use. But the fact that some IEs show no impact of certain programs or projects, it’s an important piece of information!
I would like to suggest here that if a country has an institutional and relatively credible Monitoring and Evaluation System (M&E), the chances of using IEs with no impact increase.
This is the fourth in our series of job market posts this year.
Research from numerous corners of psychology suggests that self-assessments of skill and character are often flawed in substantive and systematic ways. For instance, it is often argued that people tend to hold rather favorable views of their abilities - both in absolute and relative terms. In spite of a recent and growing literature on the extent to which poor information can negatively affect educational choices (e.g. Hasting and Weinstein, 2008; Jensen, 2010; Dinkelman and Martinez, 2014), there is little systematic evidence establishing how inaccurate self-assessments distort schooling decisions.
Poor households in developing countries face large and varied risks. Many agriculture-dependent households, for example, are at risk of drought- or flood-induced crop failures or livestock deaths. The death of a family member often implies having to fund expensive burial ceremonies, and if the deceased was the household’s primary earner, replacing her/his stream of income is an even bigger problem.
Imagine you are running the recruitment process for a government agency and you are trying to attract high quality, public service oriented staff to work in difficult agencies. How should you do this? If you offer higher wages, maybe it will get you higher quality folks, but will you lose public service motivation? And how do you get these high quality folks to go to remote and dangerous areas?
To get children to attend school in developing countries, our approach has been primarily to assume that the schooling that is available is worth pursuing, meaning that the problem must be with some barrier to go to school despite a great desire to do so: perhaps the family cannot afford the costs of schooling; perhaps the schools are not good or too far; perhaps the children want to be in school but the parents prefer food today to educated daughter tomorrow; maybe people don’t know the value of schooling, etc.
Across developing countries, there is considerable under-investment in children's human capital; it is reflected in low immunization rates, child malnutrition, high drop-out rates, etc. Because of the (both individual and aggregate) long-term effects of human capital investment during childhood, governments across the globe have designed and implemented policies to encourage parents to invest more in the health and education of their children (numerous conditional cash transfer programs across countries are some examples).