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Examining the reliability of self-reported data on school participation


  • Baird, Sarah
  • Özler, Berk


Many studies evaluate the impacts of Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programs on schooling using self-reports on enrollment and attendance even though there are reasons to doubt the reliability of these data. In this paper, we examine the extent to which school-age girls overstate their school participation. Using administrative data from a cash transfer experiment in Malawi and school attendance ledgers collected as part of the impact evaluation, we find that while all study participants overstate their enrollment and attendance rates, the extent to which this happens is significantly higher in the control group than the CCT arm. This finding implies that exclusive reliance on self-reported school participation data can lead to a serious underestimation of actual program impacts. We recommend that self-reports be supplemented using alternative sources of data on school participation that are appropriate to the experiment at hand — even if such efforts are likely to increase evaluation costs.

Suggested Citation

  • Baird, Sarah & Özler, Berk, 2012. "Examining the reliability of self-reported data on school participation," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(1), pages 89-93.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:98:y:2012:i:1:p:89-93 DOI: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2011.05.006

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Felipe Barrera-Osorio & Marianne Bertrand & Leigh L. Linden & Francisco Perez-Calle, 2011. "Improving the Design of Conditional Transfer Programs: Evidence from a Randomized Education Experiment in Colombia," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(2), pages 167-195, April.
    2. Edward Miguel & Michael Kremer, 2004. "Worms: Identifying Impacts on Education and Health in the Presence of Treatment Externalities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(1), pages 159-217, January.
    3. Paul Schultz, T., 2004. "School subsidies for the poor: evaluating the Mexican Progresa poverty program," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(1), pages 199-250, June.
    4. Behrman, Jere R & Sengupta, Piyali & Todd, Petra, 2005. "Progressing through PROGRESA: An Impact Assessment of a School Subsidy Experiment in Rural Mexico," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(1), pages 237-275, October.
    5. Alain de Janvry & Elisabeth Sadoulet, 2006. "Making Conditional Cash Transfer Programs More Efficient: Designing for Maximum Effect of the Conditionality," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 20(1), pages 1-29.
    6. FranÁois Bourguignon & Francisco H. G. Ferreira & Phillippe G. Leite, 2003. "Conditional Cash Transfers, Schooling, and Child Labor: Micro-Simulating Brazil's Bolsa Escola Program," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 17(2), pages 229-254, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Blattman, Christopher & Jamison, Julian & Koroknay-Palicz, Tricia & Rodrigues, Katherine & Sheridan, Margaret, 2016. "Measuring the measurement error: A method to qualitatively validate survey data," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 99-112.
    2. Sarah Baird & Ephraim Chirwa & Jacobus de Hoop & Berk Özler, 2014. "Girl Power: Cash Transfers and Adolescent Welfare: Evidence from a Cluster-Randomized Experiment in Malawi," NBER Chapters,in: African Successes, Volume II: Human Capital, pages 139-164 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Sarah Baird & Craig McIntosh & Berk Özler, 2011. "Cash or Condition? Evidence from a Cash Transfer Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(4), pages 1709-1753.
    4. Baird, Sarah & Gong, Erick & McIntosh, Craig & Özler, Berk, 2014. "The heterogeneous effects of HIV testing," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 98-112.
    5. De Hoop,Jacobus Joost & Friedman,Jed & Kandpal,Eeshani & Rosati,Furio Camillo, 2017. "Child schooling and child work in the presence of a partial education subsidy," Policy Research Working Paper Series 8182, The World Bank.
    6. Croke,Kevin & Dabalen, Andrew & Demombynes, Gabriel & Giugale, Marcelo & Hoogeveen, Johannes, 2013. "Collecting High-Frequency Data Using Mobile Phones: Do Timely Data Lead to Accountability?," World Bank - Economic Premise, The World Bank, issue 102, pages 1-5, January.
    7. Akresh, Richard & de Walque, Damien & Kazianga, Harounan, 2013. "Cash transfers and child schooling : evidence from a randomized evaluation of the role of conditionality," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6340, The World Bank.

    More about this item


    Measurement; Education; Conditional cash transfers; Impact evaluation;

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development


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