A Better Vision for Development: Eyeglasses and Academic Performance in Rural Primary Schools in China

52 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2016

See all articles by Paul Glewwe

Paul Glewwe

University of Minnesota - College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences - Department of Applied Economics

Albert Park

Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST); Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST) - HKUST Institute for Emerging Market Studies (IEMS)

Meng Zhao

Gakushuin University

Date Written: June 1, 2016

Abstract

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 could be biased because studying harder may adversely affects one’s vision. This paper presents results from a randomized trial in Western China that offered free eyeglasses to rural primary school students. Our preferred estimates, which exclude township pairs for which students in the control township were mistakenly provided eyeglasses, indicate that wearing eyeglasses for one academic year increased the average test scores of students with poor vision by 0.16 to 0.22 standard deviations, equivalent to 0.3 to 0.5 additional years of schooling. These estimates are averages across the two counties where the intervention was conducted. We also find 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 parental lack of 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.

Keywords: poor vision, impaired eyesight, school performance, eyeglasses, eyesight, academic performance

JEL Classification: I20, I28, I29

Suggested Citation

Glewwe, Paul and Park, Albert and Zhao, Meng, A Better Vision for Development: Eyeglasses and Academic Performance in Rural Primary Schools in China (June 1, 2016). HKUST IEMS Working Paper No. 2015-37, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2797542 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2797542

Paul Glewwe

University of Minnesota - College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences - Department of Applied Economics ( email )

1994 Buford Avenue
Room 231
St. Paul, MN 55108-1995
United States

Albert Park (Contact Author)

Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST) ( email )

Clearwater Bay
Kowloon, 999999
Hong Kong

Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST) - HKUST Institute for Emerging Market Studies (IEMS) ( email )

IAS 2019, Lo Ka Chung Building,
Lee Shau Kee Campus, HKUST
Clear Water Bay, Kowloon
Hong Kong

HOME PAGE: http://iems.ust.hk

Meng Zhao

Gakushuin University

1-5-1 Mejiro
Toshima-ku Tokyo 171-8588
United States

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