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The fiscal cost of weak governance : evidence from teacher absence in India

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  • Muralidharan,Karthik
  • Das,Jishnu
  • Holla,Alaka
  • Mohpal,Aakash

Abstract

The relative return to input-augmentation versus inefficiency-reduction strategies for improving education system performance is a key open question for education policy in low-income countries. Using a new nationally-representative panel dataset of schools across 1297 villages in India, this paper shows that the large investments over the past decade have led to substantial improvements in input-based measures of school quality, but only a modest reduction in inefficiency as measured by teacher absence. In the data, 23.6 percent of teachers were absent during unannounced visits with an associated fiscal cost of $1.5 billion/year. There are two robust correlations in the nationally-representative panel data that corroborate findings from smaller-scale experiments. First, reductions in student-teacher ratios are correlated with increased teacher absence. Second, increases in the frequency of school monitoring are strongly correlated with lower teacher absence. Simulations using these results suggest that investing in better governance by increasing the frequency of monitoring could be over ten times more cost effective at increasing teacher-student contact time (net of teacher absence) than hiring more teachers. Thus, at current margins, policies that decrease the inefficiency of public spending in India are likely to yield substantially higher returns than those that augment inputs.

Suggested Citation

  • Muralidharan,Karthik & Das,Jishnu & Holla,Alaka & Mohpal,Aakash, 2016. "The fiscal cost of weak governance : evidence from teacher absence in India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7579, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:7579
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    Cited by:

    1. Cilliers, Jacobus & Kasirye, Ibrahim & Leaver, Clare & Serneels, Pieter & Zeitlin, Andrew, 2016. "Pay for Locally Monitored Performance? A Welfare Analysis for Teacher Attendance in Ugandan Primary Schools," IZA Discussion Papers 10118, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Asian Development Bank (ADB), 2013. "Empowerment and Public Service Delivery in Developing Asia and the Pacific," ADB Reports RPT135565-3, Asian Development Bank (ADB), revised 15 May 2013.
    3. Karthik Muralidharan & Venkatesh Sundararaman, 2013. "Contract Teachers: Experimental Evidence from India," NBER Working Papers 19440, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Karthik Muralidharan & Paul Niehaus & Sandip Sukhtankar, 2017. "General Equilibrium Effects of (Improving) Public Employment Programs: Experimental Evidence from India," NBER Working Papers 23838, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Asim,Salman & Chase,Robert S. & Dar,Amit & Schmillen,Achim Daniel, 2015. "Improving education outcomes in South Asia : findings from a decade of impact evaluations," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7362, The World Bank.
    6. Shabnam Sinha & Rukmini Banerji & Wilima Wadhwa, 2016. "Teacher Performance in Bihar, India," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 23637.
    7. Karthik Muralidharan & Paul Niehaus & Sandip Sukhtankar, 2016. "Building State Capacity: Evidence from Biometric Smartcards in India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(10), pages 2895-2929, October.
    8. Fagernäs, Sonja & Pelkonen, Panu, 2017. "Where's the Teacher? How Teacher Workplace Segregation Impedes Teacher Allocation in India," IZA Discussion Papers 10595, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Educational Institutions&Facilities; Effective Schools and Teachers; Educational Sciences;

    JEL classification:

    • H52 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Education
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • M54 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Labor Management
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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