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Visualizing Development:Eyeglasses and Academic Performance in Rural Primary Schools in China


  • Glewwe, Paul
  • Park, Albert
  • Zhao, Meng


About 10% of primary school students in developing countries have poor vision, but very few of them wear glasses. Almost no research examines the impact of poor vision on school performance, and simple OLS estimates are likely to be biased because studying harder often adversely affect one’s vision. This paper presents results from a randomized trial in Western China that offered free eyeglasses to 1,528 rural primary school students. The results indicate that wearing eyeglasses for one year increased average test scores of students with poor vision by 0.15 to 0.22 standard deviations, equivalent to the learning acquired from an additional 0.33-0.50 years of schooling, and that the benefits are greater for under-performing students. A simple cost-benefit analysis suggests very high economic returns to wearing eyeglasses, raising the question of why such investments are not made by most families. We find that girls are more likely to refuse free eyeglasses, and that lack of parental awareness of vision problems, mothers’ education, and economic factors (expenditures per capita and price) significantly affect whether children wear eyeglasses in the absence of the intervention.

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  • Glewwe, Paul & Park, Albert & Zhao, Meng, 2012. "Visualizing Development:Eyeglasses and Academic Performance in Rural Primary Schools in China," Working Papers 120032, University of Minnesota, Center for International Food and Agricultural Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:umciwp:120032

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sylvie Moulin & Michael Kremer & Paul Glewwe, 2009. "Many Children Left Behind? Textbooks and Test Scores in Kenya," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 112-135, January.
    2. Miriam Bruhn & David McKenzie, 2009. "In Pursuit of Balance: Randomization in Practice in Development Field Experiments," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(4), pages 200-232, October.
    3. Mikael Lindahl & Alan B. Krueger, 2001. "Education for Growth: Why and for Whom?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(4), pages 1101-1136, December.
    4. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Shawn Cole & Esther Duflo & Leigh Linden, 2007. "Remedying Education: Evidence from Two Randomized Experiments in India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1235-1264.
    5. Hannum, Emily & Zhang, Yuping, 2012. "Poverty and Proximate Barriers to Learning: Vision Deficiencies, Vision Correction and Educational Outcomes in Rural Northwest China," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(9), pages 1921-1931.
    6. Xavier Sala-I-Martin & Gernot Doppelhofer & Ronald I. Miller, 2004. "Determinants of Long-Term Growth: A Bayesian Averaging of Classical Estimates (BACE) Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 813-835, September.
    7. Robert J. Barro, 1991. "Economic Growth in a Cross Section of Countries," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(2), pages 407-443.
    8. N. Gregory Mankiw & David Romer & David N. Weil, 1992. "A Contribution to the Empirics of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 407-437.
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    12. Renfu Luo & Yaojiang Shi & Linxiu Zhang & Chengfang Liu & Scott Rozelle & Brian Sharbono & Ai Yue & Qiran Zhao & Reynaldo Martorell, 2012. "Nutrition and Educational Performance in Rural China's Elementary Schools: Results of a Randomized Control Trial in Shaanxi Province," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60(4), pages 735-772.
    13. World Bank, 2000. "China," World Bank Other Operational Studies 22901, The World Bank.
    14. Robert Jensen, 2010. "The (Perceived) Returns to Education and the Demand for Schooling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(2), pages 515-548.
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    Cited by:

    1. Robert Poppe, 2014. "Poor Eyesight and Educational Outcomes in Ethiopia," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 41(2), pages 205-223, June.

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