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Teacher Shocks and Student Learning: Evidence from Zambia


  • Jishnu Das
  • Stefan Dercon
  • James Habyarimana
  • Pramila Krishnan


A large literature examines the link between shocks to households and the educational attainment of children. We use new panel data to estimate the impact of shocks to teachers on student learning in Mathematics and English. Using absenteeism in the 30 days preceding the survey as a measure of these shocks, we find no impact for the full sample, but a large impact for a subsample for which we can control for unobserved changes in teacher heterogeneity: A 5 percent increase in the teacher’s absence rate reduces learning by 4 to 8 percent of average gains over the year. Health problems—primarily teachers’ own illness and the illnesses of their family members—account for more than 60 percent of teacher absences. This is not surprising in a country struggling with an HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Suggested Citation

  • Jishnu Das & Stefan Dercon & James Habyarimana & Pramila Krishnan, 2007. "Teacher Shocks and Student Learning: Evidence from Zambia," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(4).
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:42:y:2007:i4:p820-862

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. David K. Evans & Anna Popova, 2016. "What Really Works to Improve Learning in Developing Countries? An Analysis of Divergent Findings in Systematic Reviews," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 31(2), pages 242-270.
    2. Chrysanthi Balomenou & Aniko Kalman & Konstantinos Kolovos, 2014. "Comparative analysis of the implementation of Triple Helix Theory in Greece and Hungary and lessons learned from both cases´," ERSA conference papers ersa14p954, European Regional Science Association.
    3. Chris Elbers & Jan Willem Gunning, 2012. "Evaluation of Development Programs: Using Regressions to assess the Impact of Complex Interventions," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 12-081/2, Tinbergen Institute.
    4. Chris Elbers & Jan Willem Gunning, 2014. "Evaluation of Development Programs: Randomized Controlled Trials or Regressions?," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 28(3), pages 432-445.
    5. repec:eee:wodepe:v:6:y:2017:i:c:p:1-10 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Seth Gershenson, 2016. "Performance Standards and Employee Effort: Evidence From Teacher Absences," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 35(3), pages 615-638, June.
    7. Daniel Suryadarma & Asep Suryahadi & Sudarno Sumarto & F. Halsey Rogers, 2006. "Improving Student Performance in Public Primary Schools in Developing Countries: Evidence from Indonesia," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(4), pages 401-429.
    8. Daniel Aaronson & Bhashkar Mazumder, 2011. "The Impact of Rosenwald Schools on Black Achievement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 119(5), pages 821-888.
    9. Muralidharan, Karthik & Das, Jishnu & Holla, Alaka & Mohpal, Aakash, 2017. "The fiscal cost of weak governance: Evidence from teacher absence in India," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 116-135.
    10. Rogers, F. Halsey & Vegas, Emiliana, 2009. "No more cutting class ? reducing teacher absence and providing incentives for performance," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4847, The World Bank.
    11. Nazmul Chaudhury & Jeffrey Hammer & Michael Kremer & Karthik Muralidharan & F. Halsey Rogers, 2006. "Missing in Action: Teacher and Health Worker Absence in Developing Countries," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 91-116, Winter.
    12. Dang, Hai-Anh H. & King, Elizabeth M., 2013. "Incentives and teacher effort: further evidence from a developing country," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6694, The World Bank.
    13. Banerjee, Ritwik & King, Elizabeth M. & Orazem, Peter F. & Paterno, Elizabeth M., 2012. "Student and teacher attendance: The role of shared goods in reducing absenteeism," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 563-574.
    14. McKenzie, David, 2012. "Beyond baseline and follow-up: The case for more T in experiments," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(2), pages 210-221.
    15. Das, Jishnu & Pandey, Priyanka & Zajonc, Tristan, 2006. "Learning levels and gaps in Pakistan," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4067, The World Bank.
    16. Gershenson, Seth & Holt, Stephen B. & Papageorge, Nicholas W., 2015. "Who Believes in Me? The Effect of Student-Teacher Demographic Match on Teacher Expectations," IZA Discussion Papers 9202, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    17. Dridi, Mohamed, 2013. "Corruption dans le Secteur d'Education : Une Typologie de Conséquences
      [Corruption Within Education Sector : A Typology of Consequences]
      ," MPRA Paper 46874, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    18. Gershenson, Seth, 2012. "How do substitute teachers substitute? An empirical study of substitute-teacher labor supply," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 410-430.
    19. Emiliana Vegas & Alejandro Ganimian, 2013. "Theory and Evidence on Teacher Policies in Developed and Developing Countries," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 4597, Inter-American Development Bank.
    20. Chrysanthi Balomenou & Konstantinos kolovos, 2013. "Universities' funding in the the current global financial crisis: Threat or opportunity for the implementation of Triple Helix Theory?," ERSA conference papers ersa13p839, European Regional Science Association.
    21. Chris Elbers & Jan Willem Gunning, 2009. "Evaluation of Development Policy: Treatment versus Program Effects," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 09-073/2, Tinbergen Institute.
    22. Masino, Serena & Niño-Zarazúa, Miguel, 2016. "What works to improve the quality of student learning in developing countries?," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 53-65.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household


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