Research

Completed Papers:
fseFigure
In recent years, countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa have introduced free education programs. While free primary education programs have been demonstrated to increase the educational attainment of beneficiaries, there is little evidence of the impact of large scale national free secondary education programs.  In early 2008 the Kenyan government abolished tuition for public secondary schools. I show that this policy rapidly increased the proportion of students continuing from primary to secondary school, particularly from areas with low initial primary to secondary transition rates. Using this regional variation in exposure to the program together with birth cohort variation, I demonstrate that this policy led young women to delay childbirth and related behaviors, as well as shift away from agriculture towards skilled work.  I also demonstrate that despite concerns over the quality impact of this rapid expansion of schooling, there is little evidence that secondary school completion examination grades deteriorated in regions more impacted by the program.

Can School Upgrades Up Grades? (Submitted)
natSchoolFigure
While countries worldwide have been successful at getting children into school, low student learning and overall school quality are still concerns. This paper analyzes whether a Kenyan government program that upgraded selected secondary schools to a higher quality national tier improved student educational outcomes, as measured by student secondary school completion examination results.  The program impact is identified by comparing student outcomes at upgraded schools to student outcomes at schools that met the government's upgrade eligibility criteria, but were not selected for the upgrade program. To avoid selection effects, I examine only cohorts enrolled at the schools prior to the upgrade announcements.  Using this difference-in-differences approach, I find evidence of heterogeneous program impact: while the program had no measurable impact for girls, the program improved overall examination scores for boys by 0.12 standard deviations as well as English and Swahili scores by 0.18 and 0.21 standard deviations respectively.  The improved scores for boys appears to be driven by shifting up the lower tail of the test score distribution.

Young adults attempting to generate an income face a number of potential barriers including limited access to credit, a lack of training, and difficulty identifying a business opportunity. Microfranchising is a new policy intervention designed to remove these barriers by linking unemployed individuals to pre-existing supply chains and a proven business model, helping small groups form microenterprises. This paper evaluates the girls empowered by microfranchising program which was open to unemployed teenage women in three of Nairobi’s poorer neighborhoods. The program provided participants with the human and physical capital necessary to open a small business. The evaluation is a randomized control trial based on oversubscription.

Works in Progress:
Lighting up the night: electrification and academic performance
powerFigure

This paper makes use of a unique dataset combining satellite nighttime lights data with the geo-coded test scores of students taking the Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) between 2010 and 2014 to estimate the impact of electrification on academic achievement. The nighttime satellite data are used to determine when villages gain access to electricity. The impact of electrification on test scores is identified using a difference-in-differences approach comparing students in regions who gain electricity to comparison groups of students in regions that recently gained electricity, as well as comparison groups identified through matching algorithms.