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If you build it, will they come? School availability and school enrollment in 21 poor countries


  • Filmer, Deon


Increasing the supply of schools is commonly advocated as a policy intervention to promote schooling. Analysis of the relationship between the school enrollment of 6 to 14 year olds and the distance to primary and secondary schools in 21 rural areas in low-income countries (including some of the poorest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa) reveals that the two are often statistically significantly related. However, the magnitudes of the associations are small. Simulating big reductions in distance yields only small increases in average school participation, and only small reductions in within-country inequality. The data are mostly cross-sectional and therefore it is difficult to assess the degree to which results might be driven by endogenous school placement. Data can be geographically matched over time in three of the study countries and under some assumptions the results from these countries are consistent with no substantial bias in the cross-sectional estimates. Although increasing school availability by decreasing the average distance to schools can be a tool for increasing enrollments, it cannot be expected to have a substantial effect. Other interventions, such as those geared toward increasing the demand for schooling or increasing the quality of schooling should be prioritized.

Suggested Citation

  • Filmer, Deon, 2004. "If you build it, will they come? School availability and school enrollment in 21 poor countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3340, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:3340

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    1. M. Niaz Asadullah & Uma Kambhampati & Florencia Lopez Boo, 2014. "Social divisions in school participation and attainment in India: 1983–2004," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(4), pages 869-893.
    2. Mukhopadhyay, Abhiroop & Sahoo, Soham, 2016. "Does access to secondary education affect primary schooling? Evidence from India," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 124-142.
    3. Kathryn Yount & John Maluccio & Jere Behrman & John Hoddinott & Alexis Murphy & Usha Ramakrishnan, 2013. "Parental Resources, Schooling Achievements, and Gender Schooling Gaps: Evidence of Change over 25 years in Rural Guatemala," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 32(4), pages 495-528, August.
    4. Dana Burde & Leigh L. Linden, 2012. "The Effect of Village-Based Schools: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial in Afghanistan," NBER Working Papers 18039, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Dang, Hai-Anh & Sarr, Leopold & Asadullah, Niaz, 2011. "School Access, Resources, and Learning Outcomes: Evidence from a Non-formal School Program in Bangladesh," IZA Discussion Papers 5659, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Sabina Alkire and Maria Emma Santos, "undated". "Acute Multidimensional Poverty: A New Index for Developing Countries," OPHI Working Papers ophiwp038, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford.
    7. Orazem, Peter F. & King, Elizabeth M., 2008. "Schooling in Developing Countries: The Roles of Supply, Demand and Government Policy," Handbook of Development Economics, Elsevier.
    8. Dhanaraj, Sowmya, 2016. "Effects of parental health shocks on children’s schooling: Evidence from Andhra Pradesh, India," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 115-125.
    9. Harounan Kazianga & Leigh Linden & Ali Protik & Matt Sloan, 2016. "The Medium-Term Impacts of Girl-Friendly Schools: Seven-Year Evidence from School Construction in Burkina Faso," Development Working Papers 406, Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano, University of Milano, revised 11 Nov 2016.
    10. Jessica Heckert, 2015. "New perspective on youth migration," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 33(27), pages 765-800, October.
    11. K.S. Apsara Mendis & Masaru Ichihashi, 2014. "Impact of Government Spending on Education and Health in Sri Lanka : A Provincial Level Analysis," IDEC DP2 Series 4-8, Hiroshima University, Graduate School for International Development and Cooperation (IDEC).
    12. Kenneth Harttgen & Stephan Klasen & Mark Misselhorn, 2010. "Pro-Poor Progress in Education in Developing Countries?," Review of Economics and Institutions, Università di Perugia, vol. 1(1).
    13. Clemens, Michael A. & Kenny, Charles J. & Moss, Todd J., 2007. "The Trouble with the MDGs: Confronting Expectations of Aid and Development Success," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(5), pages 735-751, May.
    14. César P. Bouillon & Luis Tejerina, 2006. "Do We Know What Works?: A Systematic Review of Impact Evaluations of Social Programs in Latin America and the Caribbean," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 80443, Inter-American Development Bank.
    15. World Bank & Observatoire National de la Pauvreté et de l’Exclusion Sociale, 2014. "Investing in People to Fight Poverty in Haiti : Reflections for Evidence-based Policy Making
      [Haïti - Investir dans l’humain pour combattre la pauvreté : Éléments de réflexions pour la prise de déc
      ," World Bank Other Operational Studies 21519, The World Bank.
    16. Li, Li & Liu, Haoming, 2014. "Primary school availability and middle school education in rural China," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 24-40.
    17. Goensch, Iris, 2013. "Does the availability of secondary schools increase primary schooling? Empirical evidence from northern Senegal," Discussion Papers 63, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Center for international Development and Environmental Research (ZEU).


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