Professors Minkler and Prakash publish in the Journal of Comparative Economics

Professor Minkler and Professor Prakash’s paper titled “The Role of Constitutions on Poverty: A Cross-National Investigation” has been accepted by the Journal of Comparative Economics. In this paper, they construct and use a new historical data set on economics and social rights from the constitutions of 195 countries and an instrument variable strategy to answer two important questions.

First, do economic and social rights provisions in constitutions reduce poverty, measured as headcount income and health outcomes? Second, does the strength of constitutional language of the economic and social rights matter? Constitutional provisions can be framed either more weakly as directive principles or more strongly as enforceable law.

The results suggest three findings. First, they do not find an association between constitutional rights generally framed and poverty. Second, they do not find an association between economic and social rights framed as directive principles and poverty. Third, they do find a strong negative association between economic and social rights framed as enforceable law and poverty when we use legal origins as our IV. These results persist for indices of constitutional rights and also when they restrict the sample to non-OECD countries. The policy implication is that constitutional provisions framed as enforceable law provide effective meta-rules with incentives for policymakers to initiate, fund, monitor and enforce poverty reduction policies.

Professor Prakash publishes in American Economic Journal: Applied Economics

Professor Nishith Prakash’s paper “Cycling to School: Increasing Secondary School Enrollment for Girls in India“, with Karthik Muralidharan, has been accepted for publication in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.

In this paper, the authors “study the impact of an innovative program in the Indian state of Bihar that aimed to reduce the gender gap in secondary school enrollment by providing girls who continued to secondary school with a bicycle that would improve access to school.

Using data from a large representative household survey, we employ a triple difference approach (using boys and the neighboring state of Jharkhand as comparison groups) and find that being in a cohort that was exposed to the Cycle program increased girls’ age-appropriate enrollment in secondary school by 32% and reduced the corresponding gender gap by 40%. We also find an 18% increase in the number of girls who appear for the high-stakes secondary school certificate exam, and a 12% increase in the number of girls who pass it. Parametric and non-parametric decompositions of the triple-difference estimate as a function of distance to the nearest secondary school show that the increases in enrollment mostly took place in villages that were further away from a secondary school, suggesting that the mechanism of impact was the reduction in the time and safety cost of school attendance made possible by the bicycle.

We also find that the Cycle program was much more cost effective at increasing girls’ secondary school enrollment than comparable conditional cash transfer programs in South Asia.”

Professor Prakash is following up on this work with his new project, ‘Wheels of Change: Impact of Cycles on Female Education and Empowerment in Zambia’.  For more information, see Professor Prakash Studies the Impact of Bicycles on Female Education and Empowerment in Zambia

Professor Prakash Studies the Impact of Bicycles on Female Education and Empowerment in Zambia

Professor Nishith Prakash’s project, ‘Wheels of Change: Impact of Cycles on Female Education and Empowerment in Zambia’, has received generous funding from UBS-Optimus Foundation and World Bicycle Relief and will be in joint collaboration with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) at Yale University:

Many countries worldwide have made significant progress towards gender equality in education, labor force participation, and political representation in recent decades. However, in many developing and less developed countries, there also exist discriminatory social norms that favor early marriage and limit girl’s access to education and labor force participation. Therefore, it is not surprising that reducing gender disparity in primary, secondary and tertiary education has been one of the most important goals for international education policy over the past decade, and has been enshrined as one of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s).

In this experimental study we aim to study the impact of providing cycles to girls in grade 7 and 8 on education and empowerment. The aim of this evaluation is to estimate the impact of World Bicycle Relief’s BEEP program in Zambia, which provides access to cycles to students who live far from schools in their communities. The study proposes to rigorously test the impact of cycle distribution on education outcomes as well as outcomes pertaining to girls’ empowerment and their bargaining position in the households.

This study will build on the previous study by Muralidharan and Prakash (2016) by testing if increased school access through cycles could create an enabling environment for girls to negotiate better health outcomes in addition to education outcomes. The study proposes to test the following hypotheses:

1)  What is the impact of providing cycles to adolescent girls on education outcomes such as attendance, drop outs and examination scores?

2)  What is the impact of providing cycles to adolescent girls on pregnancy, marriage, fertility, mobility, bargaining power, and empowerment?

This project has received generous funding from UBS-Optimus Foundation and World Bicycle Relief and will be in joint collaboration with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) at Yale University.

Professor Prakash’s Recent Publications

Pprakashrofessor Nishith Prakash’s work has been featured recently in several publications.

An article that he co-authored with Marc Rockmore and Yogesh Uppal on The Economic Consequences of Accused Politicians in India has been published in the Centre for Economic Policy Research’s policy portal, Vox.

His work with co-author Sanjeev Kumar on the possible unintended consequences of an alcohol ban meant to stem violence against women has been published in several locations, including The Times of India

Blanket alcohol ban in Bihar won’t stop violence against women

and Ideas for India

Bihar’s alcohol ban: Prudent policy or tail-chasing?

and has been picked up by the Huffington Post.

Professor Prakash Receives World Bank Grant

prakashProfessor Nishith Prakash has received a $200,000 Knowledge, Learning and Innovation grant through the World Bank in support of the research project Performance-Based Incentives for Students – Answering Design and Operational Questions in Zanzibar. This is a joint project with Dr. Shwetlena Sabarwal (World Bank) and Professor Asadul Islam (Monash University).

This project will provide clear guidance to the Government of Zanzibar on how best to design and operationalize a results-based financing (RBF) approach for improving student performance in early grades of the secondary cycle, thereby reducing the high levels of student drop-out before secondary completion.

To this end, the grant will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of performance-based incentives targeted directly at students. Within this broad question, the evaluation will also examine the relative effectiveness of (i) different RBF design choices; and (ii) different RBF operational choices for most effectively mainstreaming such incentives using country systems.

The interventions are a part of a Government-led pilot that is being intensively supported by World Bank and is expected to help define the design of a new education project for Zanzibar.

Zheng Xu Defends Dissertation, Stays at Harvard

ZhengDefenseOn August 28th, Zheng Xu defended his dissertation, “Developing in the Era of Globalization: The Case of China” written under the supervision of major advisor Professor Delia Furtado and associate advisors, Professor Nishith Prakash, Professor Kathleen Segerson, and Professor Richard Freeman from Harvard University.

Zheng’s dissertation studies how globalization has reshaped China in terms of the labor market, environment, and media. The first chapter examines how rising demand for Chinese exports affects Chinese labor markets. Particular emphasis is given to how the massive internal migration in China shapes the labor market consequences of trade. The second chapter studies whether party-newspapers in China are less likely to report local pollution events and whether the difference distorts households’ self-protective behaviors against potential health risks. The third chapter uses the list of environmental goods endorsed by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) to test whether export production improves air quality in China through adoption of green inputs.

Since September of 2013, Zheng has been a research fellow in the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. In 2014, he received a CLAS Graduate Fellowship which helped support his time at Harvard. Zheng has already started a new position as postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities.

Congratulations, Zheng!