Seema Jayachandran: The Effects of Attending Kindergarten on Child Development in Rural India


Monday, December 3, 2018, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


Allison Dining Room

Seema Jayachandran, Professor of Economics, Northwestern University.

Seema JayachandranPrimary school enrollment is now nearly universal in many developing countries, but children from poor families arrive less prepared than better-off peers who attended pre-kindergarten and kindergarten.

We study the effects of expanding access to pre-K and kindergarten on child development in Karnataka, India, through a randomized evaluation. We partnered with a private kindergarten provider to offer two-year scholarships to children from poor families.

We find that children who attend pre-K/kindergarten due to the scholarship experience a 0.8 standard deviation gain in cognitive development. This effect size is considerably larger than most estimates for Head Start in the US. The scholarship induced some children to switch from attending no kindergarten to attending our partner's school, and it also induced some to switch from a different kindergarten to our partner's school.

To separately identify the treatment effects for these two types of switchers, we use machine learning techniques to predict who the treatment "compliers" are and what each child's counterfactual activity would have been. 

(Joint with Josh Dean)

About the speaker

Seema Jayachandran is Professor of Economics at Northwestern University and a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and Chair of its Gender Sector.

Seema Jayachandran's research focuses on economic issues in developing countries. Her work explores the determinants of children's health and education; the environment; gender equality; labor markets; and political economy.

She is a recipient of a Sloan Research Fellowship and a National Science Foundation Early Career Development grant. Earler this year she received the Sustainability Science Award from the Ecological Society of America, which recognizes the greatest scholarly contribution on ecosystem sustainability published in the previous 5 years.

Jayachandran serves as a reviewing editor for Science, co-editor for the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, and associate editor for the Quarterly Journal of Economics and Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Jayachandran earned her PhD in Economics from Harvard University. She holds an BS in Electrical Engineering from MIT, an MA in Physics and Philosophy from Oxford University, and an AM in Physics from Harvard University.

Learn more about Seema Jayachandran's work



See also: Fall 2018