Development Research Group
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Education, Evidence-based public policy, Inequality and shared prosperity, Jobs and poverty, Social protection and labor, Social Protection and Growth
Development Research Group
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Last updated August 31, 2023
Deon Filmer is a Lead Economist in the Research Group at the World Bank and Co-Director of the World Development Report 2018 Learning to Realize Education’s Promise. He has also previously served as Lead Economist in the Human Development department of the Africa Region of the World Bank. He works on issues of human capital and skills, service delivery, and the impact of policies and programs to improve human development outcomes—with research spanning the areas of education, health, social protection, and poverty and inequality. He has published widely in refereed journals, including studies of the impact of demand-side programs on schooling and learning; the roles of poverty, gender, orphanhood, and disability in explaining education inequalities; and the determinants of effective service delivery. He has recently co-authored the following books: Making Schools Work: New Evidence from Accountability Reforms, Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa, and From Mines and Wells to Well-Built Minds: Turning Sub-Saharan Africa's Natural Resource Wealth into Human Capital. He was a core team member of the World Bank's World Development Reports in 1995 Workers in an Integrating World and 2004 Making Services Work for Poor People, and a contributor to 2007’s report Development and the Next Generation. He holds a PhD and MA from Brown University and a BA from Tufts University.
Publication Search Results
Now showing 1 - 10 of 46
Autonomy, Participation, and Learning in Argentine Schools : Findings and Their Implications for Decentralization(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2002-01) Eskeland, Gunnar S. ; Filmer, DeonAccording to a theoretical model, school autonomy and parental participation in schools, can increase student learning through separate channels. Greater school autonomy increases the rent that can be distributed among stakeholders in the school, while institutions for parental participation (such as school board) empower parents to command a larger share of this surplus - for example, through student learning. Using a rich cross-sectional data set from Argentine schools (sixth and seventh grades), the authors find that autonomy, and participation raise student test scores for a given level of inputs, in a multiplicative way, consistent with the model. Autonomy has a direct effect on learning (but not for very low levels of participation), while participation affects learning only through the mediation of the effect of autonomy. The results are robust to a variety of robustness checks, and for sub-samples of children from poor households, children of uneducated mothers, schools with low mean family wealth, and public schools. It is possible that autonomy, and participation are endogenously determined, and that this biases the results - the data available do not allow this to be ruled out with certainty. Plausible predicators of autonomy, and participation are also plausible predicators of test scores, and they fail tests for the over-identifying restrictions. Heuristically argued, however, the potential for correlation with unobserved variables may be limited: the data set is rich in observed variables, and autonomy and participation show very low correlation with observed variables. Subject to these caveats, the results may be relevant to decentralization in two ways. First, as decentralization moves responsibility from the central, toward the provincial or local government, the results should be directly relevant if the decentralization increases autonomy, and participation in schools. Second, if the results are interpreted as representing a more general effect of moving decision-making toward users, and the local community, the results are relevant even if little happens to autonomy, and participation in schools. More important, perhaps, the authors illustrate empirically the importance of knowing who is empowered when higher levels of government loosen control.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2013-07) Barrera-Osorio, Felipe ; Filmer, DeonThis paper evaluates a primary school scholarship program in Cambodia with two different targeting mechanisms, one based on poverty level and the other on baseline test scores ("merit"). Both targeting mechanisms increased enrollment and attendance. However, only the merit-based targeting induced positive effects on test scores. The paper shows that the asymmetry of response is unlikely to have been driven by differences between recipients' characteristics. Higher student and family effort among beneficiaries of the merit-based scholarships suggest that the framing of the scholarship mattered for impact. The results suggest that in order to balance equity and efficiency, a two-step targeting approach might be preferable: first, target low-income individuals, and then, among them, target based on merit.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2013-07) Bouguen, Adrien ; Filmer, Deon ; Macours, Karen ; Naudeau, SophieScaling up early childhood development services has the potential to increase children's cognitive and socio-emotional development and promote school readiness in a large segment of the population. This study used a randomized controlled trial approach to evaluate three scaled-up programs designed to widen access to early childhood development services: formal preschools, community preschools, and home-based services. The impacts of all three programs fell short of expectations because of two key flaws in how they were scaled up. First, implementation did not receive due attention; as a result, school facilities were not completed as planned, community-based programs were not always established, and low, irregular stipends created difficulties in hiring and retaining teachers. Second, the services that were available were not promoted and thus not used as widely as anticipated. The results imply that the quality of programs supplied is critical, as is attention to the demand side of the problem. The finding that these programs fell short of expectations does not mean that interventions such as these are ineffective. Rather, it indicates that quality and demand require careful attention in attempts to scale up early childhood development interventions, and any problems should be addressed prior to evaluating effectiveness.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2002-03) Filmer, DeonThe author empirically explores the relationship between household poverty and the incidence and treatment of fever--as an indicator of malaria--among children in Sub-Saharan Africa. He uses household Demographic and Health Survey data collected in the 1990s from 22 countries in which malaria is prevalent. The analysis reveals a positive, but weak, association between reported fever and poverty. The geographic association becomes insignificant, however, after controlling for the mother's education. There is some evidence that higher levels of wealth in other households in the cluster in which the household lives are associated with lower levels of reported fever in Eastern and Southern Africa. Poverty and the type of care sought for an episode of fever are significantly associated: wealthier households are substantially more likely to seek care in the modern health sector. In Central and Western Africa those from richer households are more likely to seek care from all types of sources: government hospitals, lower-level public facilities such as health clinics, as well as private sources. In Eastern and Southern Africa the rich are primarily more likely to seek care from private facilities. In both regions there is substantial use of private facilities--use that increases with wealth. Like the incidence of fever, treatment-seeking behavior is strongly associated with the level of wealth in the cluster in which the child lives.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2004-06) Filmer, DeonIncreasing the supply of schools is commonly advocated as a policy intervention to promote schooling. Analysis of the relationship between the school enrollment of 6 to 14 year olds and the distance to primary and secondary schools in 21 rural areas in low-income countries (including some of the poorest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa) reveals that the two are often statistically significantly related. However, the magnitudes of the associations are small. Simulating big reductions in distance yields only small increases in average school participation, and only small reductions in within-country inequality. The data are mostly cross-sectional and therefore it is difficult to assess the degree to which results might be driven by endogenous school placement. Data can be geographically matched over time in three of the study countries and under some assumptions the results from these countries are consistent with no substantial bias in the cross-sectional estimates. Although increasing school availability by decreasing the average distance to schools can be a tool for increasing enrollments, it cannot be expected to have a substantial effect. Other interventions, such as those geared toward increasing the demand for schooling or increasing the quality of schooling should be prioritized.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2002-01) Filmer, Deon ; Hammer, Jeffrey S. ; Pritchett, Lant H.This article presents an approach to public policy in health that comes directly from the literature on public economics. It identifies two characteristic market failures in health. The first is the existence of large externalities in the control of many infectious diseases that are mostly addressed by standard public health interventions. The second is the widespread breakdown of insurance markets that leave people exposed to catastrophic financial losses. Other essential considerations in setting priorities in health are the degree to which policies address poverty and inequality and the practicality of implementing policies given limited administrative capacities. Priorities based on these criteria tend to differ substantially from those commonly prescribed by the international community.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2001-06) Filmer, Deon ; Lindauer, David L.Government officials and polcy analysts maintain that Indonesia's civil servants are poorly paid and have been for decades. This conclusion is supported by anecdotal evidence and casual empiricism. The authors systematically analyze the realtionship between government and private compensation levels using data from two large household surveys carried out by Indonesia's Central Bureau of Statistics: the 1998 Sakernas and 1999 Susenas. The results suggest that government workers with a high school education or less, representing three-quarters of the civil service, earn a pay premium over their private sector counterparts. Civil servants with more than a high school education earn less than they would in the private sector but, on average, the premium is far smaller than commonly is alleged and is in keeping with public/private differentials in other countries. These results prove robust to varying econometric specifications and cast doubt on low pay as an explanation for government corruption.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2002-09) Ainsworth, Martha ; Filmer, DeonThe authors analyze the relationship between orphan status, household wealth, and child school enrollment using data collected in the 1990s from 28 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and one country in Southeast Asia. The findings point to considerable diversity—so much so that generalizations are not possible. While there are some examples of large differentials in enrollment by orphan status, in the majority of cases the orphan enrollment gap is dwarfed by the gap between children from richer and poorer households. In some cases, even non-orphaned children from the top of the wealth distribution have low enrollments, pointing to fundamental issues in the supply or demand for schooling that are a constraint to higher enrollments of all children. The gap in enrollment between female and male orphans is not much different than the gap between girls and boys with living parents, suggesting that female orphans are not disproportionately affected in terms of their enrollment in most countries. These diverse findings demonstrate that the extent to which orphans are under-enrolled relative to other children is country-specific, at least in part because the correlation between orphan status and poverty is not consistent across countries. Social protection and schooling policies need to assess the specific country situation before considering mitigation measures.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008-09) Filmer, Deon ; Friedman, Jed ; Schady, NorbertA family preference for sons over daughters may manifest itself in different ways, including higher mortality, worse health status, or lower educational attainment among girls. This study focuses on one measure of son preference in the developing world, namely the likelihood of continued childbearing given the gender composition of existing children in the family. The authors use an unusually large data set, covering 65 countries and approximately 5 million births. The analysis shows that son preference is apparent in many regions of the developing world and is particularly large in South Asia and in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region. Modernization does not appear to reduce son preference. For example, in South Asia son preference is larger for women with more education and is increasing over time. The explanation for these patterns appears to be that latent son preference in childbearing is more likely to manifest itself when fertility levels are low. As a result of son preference, girls tend to grow up with significantly more siblings than boys do, which may have implications for their wellbeing if there are quantity-quality trade-offs that result in fewer material and emotional resources allocated to children in larger families.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008-04) Filmer, Deon ; Scott, KinnonThis paper compares how results using various methods to construct asset indices match results using per capita expenditures. The analysis shows that inferences about inequalities in education, health care use, fertility, child mortality, as well as labor market outcomes are quite robust to the specific economic status measure used. The measures-most significantly per capita expenditures versus the class of asset indices-do not, however, yield identical household rankings. Two factors stand out in predicting the degree of congruence in rankings between per capita expenditures and an asset index. First is the extent to which per capita expenditures can be explained by observed household and community characteristics. In settings with small transitory shocks to expenditure, or with little measurement error in expenditure, the rankings yielded by the alternative approaches are most similar. Second is the extent to which expenditures are dominated by individually consumed goods such as food. Asset indices are typically derived from indicators of goods which are effectively public at the household level, while expenditures are often dominated by food, an almost exclusively private good. In settings where private goods such as food are the main component of expenditures, asset indices and per capita consumption yield the least similar results, although adjusting for economies of scale in household expenditures reconciles the results somewhat.