Some Children Left Behind: Variation in the Effects of an Educational Intervention

72 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2020

See all articles by Julie Buhl-Wiggers

Julie Buhl-Wiggers

Copenhagen Business School

Jason Kerwin

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Department of Applied Economics

Juan Sebastián Muñoz

IÉSEG School of Management, Lille Campus

Jeffrey A. Smith

University of Wisconsin - Madison; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

Rebecca L. Thornton

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Economics, Students

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Abstract

We document substantial variation in the effects of a highly-effective literacy program in northern Uganda. The program increases test scores by 1.4 SDs on average, but standard statistical bounds show that the impact standard deviation exceeds 1.0 SD. This implies that the variation in effects across our students is wider than the spread of mean effects across all randomized evaluations of developing country education interventions in the literature.This very effective program does indeed leave some students behind. At the same time, we do not learn much from our analyses that attempt to determine which students benefit more or less from the program. We reject rank preservation, and the weaker assumption of stochastic increasingness leaves wide bounds on quantile-specific average treatment effects. Neither conventional nor machine-learning approaches to estimating systematic heterogeneity capture more than a small fraction of the variation in impacts given our available candidate moderators.

Keywords: essential heterogeneity, heterogeneous treatment effects, education

JEL Classification: I25, I26

Suggested Citation

Buhl-Wiggers, Julie and Kerwin, Jason and Muñoz, Juan Sebastián and Smith, Jeffrey Andrew and Thornton, Rebecca L., Some Children Left Behind: Variation in the Effects of an Educational Intervention. IZA Discussion Paper No. 13598, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3674319 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3674319

Julie Buhl-Wiggers (Contact Author)

Copenhagen Business School

Solbjerg Plads 3
Frederiksberg C, DK - 2000
Denmark

Jason Kerwin

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Department of Applied Economics ( email )

MN
United States

Juan Sebastián Muñoz

IÉSEG School of Management, Lille Campus ( email )

3 Rue de la Digue
Lille, 59000
France

Jeffrey Andrew Smith

University of Wisconsin - Madison

716 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53706-1481
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Rebecca L. Thornton

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Economics, Students ( email )

Champaign, IL
United States

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