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Preschools and early childhood development in a second best world: Evidence from a scaled-up experiment in Cambodia

Author

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  • Bouguen, Adrien
  • Filmer, Deon
  • Macours, Karen
  • Naudeau, Sophie

Abstract

Interventions targeting early childhood development, such as investment in preschools, are often seen as promising mechanisms to increase human capital and to reduce the intergenerational transmission of poverty and inequality. This paper presents results from a randomized evaluation of a large scale preschool construction program in Cambodia, and indicates a cautionary tale. The overall impact of the program on a wide set of children’s early childhood outcomes was small and not statistically significant, and for the cohort with highest exposure the program led to a negative impact on early childhood cognition. Moreover, for this group, the intervention increased inequality as the negative impacts are largest for children of poorer and less educated parents. The results can be explained by the frequent occurrence of underage enrollment in primary school in the absence of preschools, stricter enforcement of the minimum age for primary school entry after the intervention, substitution between primary and preschool following intervention, and difference in demand responses of more and less educated parents to the new preschools. These results indicate that the design of ECD interventions needs to start from a good understanding of parental and teacher decisions pre-program. More generally, they show how implementation and demand-side constraints might not only limit positive impacts, but could even lead to perverse effects of early childhood interventions.

Suggested Citation

  • Bouguen, Adrien & Filmer, Deon & Macours, Karen & Naudeau, Sophie, 2014. "Preschools and early childhood development in a second best world: Evidence from a scaled-up experiment in Cambodia," CEPR Discussion Papers 10170, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:10170
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Karen Macours & Norbert Schady & Renos Vakis, 2012. "Cash Transfers, Behavioral Changes, and Cognitive Development in Early Childhood: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(2), pages 247-273, April.
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    5. Tania Barham & Karen Macours & John A. Maluccio, 2013. "Boys' Cognitive Skill Formation and Physical Growth: Long-Term Experimental Evidence on Critical Ages for Early Childhood Interventions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 467-471, May.
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    8. Tania Barham & Karen Macours & John A. Maluccio, 2013. "Boys' Cognitive Skill Formation and Physical Growth: Long-Term Experimental Evidence on Critical Ages for Early Childhood Interventions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 467-471, May.
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    13. Karen Macours & Norbert Schady & Renos Vakis, 2012. "Cash Transfers, Behavioral Changes, and Cognitive Development in Early Childhood: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(2), pages 247-273, April.
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    Cited by:

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    2. Liesbeth Colen & Sergio Gomez y Paloma & Uwe Latacz-Lohmann & Marianne Lefebvre & Raphaële Préget & Sophie Thoyer, 2016. "Economic Experiments as a Tool for Agricultural Policy Evaluation: Insights from the European CAP," Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics/Revue canadienne d'agroeconomie, Canadian Agricultural Economics Society/Societe canadienne d'agroeconomie, vol. 64(4), pages 667-694, December.
    3. Cameron, Lisa & Olivia, Susan & Shah, Manisha, 2019. "Scaling up sanitation: Evidence from an RCT in Indonesia," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 138(C), pages 1-16.
    4. Izza Mafruhah, 2016. "The Placement Model for Indonesian Migrant Workers to Improve their Economic Welfare," GATR Journals jber116, Global Academy of Training and Research (GATR) Enterprise.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    early childhood development; preschools; RCT;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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