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Can Provision of Free School Uniforms harm Attendance? Evidence from Ecuador

Listed author(s):
  • Diana Hidalgo

    (University of Amsterdam, and TIER)

  • Mercedes Onofa

    (FLASCO-Ecuador)

  • Hessel Oosterbeek

    (University of Amsterdam)

  • Juan Ponce

    (FLASCO-Ecuador)

This discussion paper resulted in an article in the Journal of Development Economics (2013). Volume 103, pages 43-51. To raise school attendance, many programs in developing countries eliminate orreduce private contributions to education. This paper documents an unintendednegative effect of such programs. Using data from a randomized experiment thatprovides free uniforms to primary school children in Ecuador, we find that the interventionhas a significantly negative impact on attendance. An explanation is thatparents who pay for their children’s uniforms (the control group) feel more committedto the school than parents who got the uniforms for free (the treated) andtherefore encourage their children to attend school. Consistent with this sunk costeffect, we find that the impact is largest shortly after the purchase of the uniform,and during the end-of-year exam period when more is at stake.

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Paper provided by Tinbergen Institute in its series Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers with number 10-103/3.

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Date of creation: 14 Oct 2010
Handle: RePEc:tin:wpaper:20100103
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  1. Jessica Cohen & Pascaline Dupas, 2008. "Free Distribution or Cost-Sharing? Evidence from a Malaria Prevention Experiment," NBER Working Papers 14406, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Oosterbeek, Hessel & Ponce, Juan & Schady, Norbert, 2008. "The impact of cash transfers on school enrollment : evidence from Ecuador," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4645, The World Bank.
  3. Duflo, Esther & Glennerster, Rachel & Kremer, Michael, 2008. "Using Randomization in Development Economics Research: A Toolkit," Handbook of Development Economics, Elsevier.
  4. Imbens, Guido W & Angrist, Joshua D, 1994. "Identification and Estimation of Local Average Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(2), pages 467-475, March.
  5. Abadie, Alberto, 2003. "Semiparametric instrumental variable estimation of treatment response models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 113(2), pages 231-263, April.
  6. Nava Ashraf & James Berry & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2010. "Can Higher Prices Stimulate Product Use? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Zambia," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(5), pages 2383-2413, December.
  7. Hanan G. Jacoby, 2002. "Is There an Intrahousehold "Flypaper Effect"? Evidence From a School Feeding Programme," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(476), pages 196-221, January.
  8. Joshua D. Angrist & Victor Lavy, 2002. "The Effect of High School Matriculation Awards: Evidence from Randomized Trials," NBER Working Papers 9389, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Jessica Cohen & Pascaline Dupas, 2010. "Free Distribution or Cost-Sharing? Evidence from a Randomized Malaria Prevention Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(1), pages 1-45.
  10. Arkes, Hal R. & Blumer, Catherine, 1985. "The psychology of sunk cost," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 124-140, February.
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