Working papers

Stereotypes, Role Models, and the Formation of Beliefs (submitted)

with Feng Hu

(shortened from the previous title of "Role Models, Girls' Math Ability, and the Formation of Beliefs: Evidence from Random Assignment of Students in Chinese Middle Schools")


Stereotypes can erroneously reduce children's beliefs about their own ability, negatively affecting effort in school and investment in skills. Because of dynamic complementarity in the formation of human capital, this may lead to large negative effects on later life outcomes. In this paper, we show evidence that role models, in the form of female math teachers, can counter the negative effects of gender-based stereotypes on girls' perceptions of their math ability. A simple model of investment in human capital under uncertainty predicts the greatest effects of role models accruing to girls who perceive themselves to be of low ability. We exploit random assignment of students to classes in Chinese middle schools to test this prediction, examining the effects of teacher-student gender match on students’ perceived ability, aspirations, investment, and academic performance. We find that, for girls who perceive themselves to be of low ability, being assigned a female math teacher causes large gains in all of these outcomes. We see no effects of teacher-student gender match on children who do not perceive themselves to be of low math ability. We show evidence against the potential alternative explanations that differential teacher effort, skill, teaching methods, or differential attention to girls drive these effects.



The Power of Credential Length Policy: Schooling Decisions and Returns in Modern China (submitted)

with Feng Hu

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


Every government chooses the length of educational credentials. We study a policy change in China which increased the length of primary school by one year but did not change the primary school curriculum. This change increased total years of schooling by one for most affected individuals and raised monthly income on average by two percent. The policy is progressive, bringing higher income returns (5-7%) for the least educated. We estimate the policy has reallocated 900 billion person-hours from labor to education to date and generate cost-benefit estimates to quantify this tradeoff, highlighting the public finance implications of credential length policy.

Coverage: Marginal Revolution, Economics that Matters



Work in progress


Private School Entry and Girls’ Schooling Outcomes in Rural India

with Andrew Foster


Private primary and secondary schools are an increasingly central part of many education systems in the developing world, particularly in South Asia. A prominent criticism of this development is that the cost of private school induces poor families to pull some children out of school in order to afford fees for the others, and that girl children are the most likely to suffer as a result. We test this hypothesis using panel data from a representative sample of Indian villages spanning 1970 to 2015. We find that boys benefit disproportionately from private schools: in villages where private schools establish, the average schooling of boys increases by approximately one year while girls’ schooling stays constant. We find no evidence, however, for the claim that girls’ schooling decreases after private school entry. In addition, we find that average years of completed schooling increases by 0.8 years for girls whose older brothers are exposed to private schooling, and that this effect increases the closer in the family’s birth order the first exposed brother is to the girl. This result is consistent with a model in which families learn about school quality and allocate more resources to the production of learning (i.e. hours of their children's time) when the quality of complementary inputs increases.


The Causal Impact of Hours Worked Per Week on Personal Health: Evidence from a Large Chinese Policy Experiment

with Feng Hu





On Minimizing the Risk of Bias in Randomized Controlled Trials in Economics 

with Peter Boone and Diana Elbourne

Centre for Economic Performance Discussion Paper No. 1240, September 2013, accepted for publication at the World Bank Economic Review

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



Published articles


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 14(7): e1002324

Coverage: Times of IndiaThe Hindu


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


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, 88:727–73

Coverage: New York Times


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