Working papers

How important are beliefs about gender differences in math ability? Transmission across generations and impacts on child outcomes (updated May 2019, submitted)

with Feng Hu 

(formerly circulated as “The sins of the parents: Persistence of gender bias across generations and the gender gap in math performance”)

Here is a nice write-up of the paper in the World Bank’s Development Impact Blog. Here is Feng and my summary of it (and its companion paper) at the Global Development Network.


We study the transmission of beliefs about gender differences in math ability from adults to children and how this affects girls’ math performance relative to boys. We exploit randomly assigned variation in the proportion of a child’s middle school classmates whose parents believe boys are better than girls at learning math. An increase in exposure to peers whose parents report this belief increases a child’s likelihood of believing it, with similar effects for boys and girls and greater effects from peers of the same gender. This exposure also affects children’s perceived difficulty of math, aspirations, and academic performance, generating gains for boys and losses for girls. These effects are not driven by other sources of peer effects, such as peer cognitive ability, peer parent traits such as education and income, or the gender composition of the classroom.


Stereotypes, role models, and the formation of beliefs (updated April 2019, submitted)

with Feng Hu

CDEP-CGEG Working Paper No. 43

Here is a video of me presenting this paper at the University of Chicago (October 2017)


We study how information from stereotypes and role models influences children’s beliefs, aspirations, and academic performance. We use a simple, stylized model of investment under uncertainty to formalize how female math teachers may affect the beliefs of students exposed to stereotypes about the math ability of each gender. It predicts differential effects by gender, and much larger effects among children who think they are of low ability in math. We exploit random assignment of students to classes in nationally-representative data from Chinese middle schools to test these predictions. We find that being assigned a female math teacher generates large gains in beliefs, aspirations, investment, and test scores for girls who perceive themselves to have low ability in math, generates moderate harms for boys with low perceived math ability, and has no gender-specific impact on these outcomes for non-low perceived ability children. We find no evidence that female math teachers teach differently than male teachers or give different praise or attention to low perceived ability students of different genders.



Work in progress


Support classes offered in rural education: The SCORE trial

This paper reports the results of a three year randomized controlled trial run in over 150 villages in regions 3 and 4 of the Gambia. An after-school remedial education program, based on that of the STRIPES Trial (Lakshminarayana et al., PLoS ONE 2013), was given to a set of entering first graders from January 2016 to April 2018. Pre-specified analysis will compare test scores in math and English between intervention and control groups as well as the effects of the intervention on time use, aspirations, and expenditure.

Here is a video of me presenting a preliminary version of the study


Articles published in peer-reviewed journals


Does primary school duration matter? Evaluating the consequences of a large Chinese policy experiment 

with Feng Hu

Economics of Education Review 2019, Volume 70: pages 61-74

CDEP-CGEG Working Paper No. 44

(note: this paper was previously circulated under the titles "The Power of Credential Length Policy: Schooling Decisions and Returns in Modern China" and "The Importance of Educational Credentials: Schooling Decisions and Returns in Modern China")


Nearly all governments provide primary schooling, but surprisingly little is known about how changes to the duration of primary school affect educational attainment and performance in the labor market. We study a Chinese policy which extended the duration of primary school from five years to six but did not change the curriculum. We exploit its gradual rollout over space and time to generate causal estimates of its impact on educational attainment and subsequent labor market outcomes. We find that the policy has small, largely positive effects on post-primary educational attainment, and raises average monthly income by 2.6%. The policy is progressive, generating higher returns (5-8%) among both women and the least educated. We estimate the policy has already reallocated 450 million years of labor from work to schooling and we generate cost-benefit estimates to quantify this tradeoff, highlighting the large public finance implications of this policy decision. 

Coverage: Marginal Revolution, Economics that Matters

On minimizing the risk of bias in randomized controlled trials in economics 

with Peter Boone and Diana Elbourne

The World Bank Economic Review 2017, Volume 31:3, pages 687–707

Also Centre for Economic Performance Discussion Paper No. 1240, September 2013

NOTE: previously circulated as “Risk and Evidence of Bias in Randomized Controlled Trials in Economics”

Coverage: World Bank Impact Evaluation blogChris Blattman’s blogBerkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences


Community health promotion and medical provision for neonatal health—CHAMPION cluster randomised trial in Nagarkurnool district, Telangana (formerly Andhra Pradesh), India

with Peter Boone, Vera Mann, Rohini Mukherjee, Chitra Jayanty, Chris Frost, M Reddy Padmanabh, Rashmi Lakshminarayana and Diana Elbourne.

PLoS Medicine 2017, 14(7): e1002324

Coverage: Times of IndiaThe Hindu


The Support to Rural India’s Public Education System (STRIPES) trial: A Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial of Supplementary Teaching, Learning Material and Material Support

with Rashmi Lakshminarayana, Preetha Bhakta, Chris Frost, Peter Boone, Diana Elbourne, and Vera Mann.

PLoS ONE 2013, 8(7): e65775 

Coverage: Centrepiece


A Comparative Study to Assess the Lasting Impact of a Long-running Community-based Primary Health Care Programme on Under-5 Mortality in Jamkhed, India

with Peter Boone, Vera Mann, Chris Frost, and Ramaswamy Premkumar

Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2010, Volume 88: pages 727–73

Coverage: New York Times


Published study protocols and book chapters

Remedial After-school Support Classes Offered in Rural Gambia (The SCORE Trial): Study Protocol for a Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial

with Peter Boone, Alpha Camara, Diana Elbourne, Chris Frost, Samory Fernandes, Chitra Jayanty, Maitri Lenin, and Ana Filipa Silva

Trials 2015, 16:574


Child Mortality in Rural India: How the ASHA Programme Works, and How It Might Fail

in India’s Human Security: Lost Debates, Forgotten People, Intractable Challenges, Jason Miklian and Ashild Kolas, Editors, Routledge, New York. 2013

Support to Rural India’s Primary Education System – the STRIPES Trial

with Vera Mann, Preetha Bhakta, Rashmi Lakshminarayana, Chris Frost, Diana Elbourne and Peter Boone

Trials 2010, 11:10


Community Health and Medical Provision: Impact on Neonates (the CHAMPION trial)

with Peter Boone, Vera Mann, Tarana Mendiratta, Rohini Mukherjee, Ryan Figueiredo, Chitra Jayanty, Chris Frost, M Reddy Padmanabh and Diana Elbourne

BMC Pediatrics, 2007 7:26