Panel Paper: Knowledge Is Power: School Construction & Intergenerational Human Capital

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Harding - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Naveen Sunder, Cornell University

This paper examines how a school building program in India impacted educational and cognitive outcomes of the children of program beneficiaries. Beginning in the early 1990s, India implemented a national school building programme which disproportionately benefited districts that had low female literacy levels at the time. Records indicate that the programme covered nearly 375,000 schools and benefited more than 50 million children across 271 pro- gramme districts. Using a regression discontinuity approach, I exploit spatial and temporal variation to estimate the intergenerational effects of improvements in schooling opportunities experienced by women under this scheme. For the analysis, I combine data from several sources: I use individual-level data from multiple nationally representative datasets, government archival data on programme implementation at the district-level, and detailed administrative data on school infrastructure. I find that children whose mothers were impacted by this programme had higher cognitive abilities as measured by scores on standardized math, reading and English tests. These children also experienced positive impacts on enrollment and grade progression. While I observe that these educational benefits exist for children of both genders, the impacts on test score for girls is between 13-32 percentage points higher than the corresponding effect for boys. I explore different mechanisms through which school construction might have led to the child-level effects I observe, such as maternal education, health and healthcare utilization. The findings of this paper provide evidence on how the expansion of school infrastructure could have substantial long term impacts on cognitive and educational outcomes that extend beyond the generation that is directly impacted by the school construction.