Development Research Group
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Fields of Specialization
Health economics, Education, Gender, Health, Microeconomics, Cultural economics, India, Pakistan, Kenya, Zambia, Macroeconomic and Structural Policies
Development Research Group
Externally Hosted Work
Last updated January 31, 2023
Jishnu Das is a Lead Economist in the Development Research Group (Human Development Team) at the World Bank and a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Policy Research, New Delhi. Jishnu’s work focuses on the delivery of basic services, particularly health and education. He has worked on the quality of health care, mental health, information in health and education markets, child learning and test-scores and the determinants of trust. His work has been published in leading economics, health and education journals and widely covered in the media and policy forums. In 2011 he was part of the core team on the World Development Report on Gender and Development. He received the George Bereday Award from the Comparative and International Education Society and the Stockholm Challenge Award for the best ICT project in the public administration category in 2006, and the Research Academy award from the World Bank in 2013. He is currently working on long-term projects on health and education markets in India and Pakistan.
Publication Search Results
Now showing 1 - 10 of 13
Publication(World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2004-03) Das, JishnuWhen there are externalities across households, governments can improve economic outcomes by equitably subsidizing education. But this chain of causality works only if (1) allocated resources reach the final recipients, and (2) equity in public subsidies translates directly into equity in total educational expenditures, including private spending at the household level. Using a unique data set from Zambia, the author shows that whether these conditions are met depends on the specific schemes used to allocate resources as well as the exact form of the subsidies. First, subsidies allocated through clear guidelines and legislated rules reached the final recipients, but those allocated at the discretion of province and educational offices did not. Second, even those components of subsidies that were progressive (in that the share of total subsidies for the poor was greater than the share for the non-poor) had no effect on inequality in total educational expenditures due to the crowding-out of household spending.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2004-05) Das, Jishnu ; Hammer, JeffreyThe authors develop a method in which vignettes-a battery of questions for hypothetical cases-are evaluated with item response theory to create a metric for doctor quality. The method allows a simultaneous estimation of quality and validation of the test instrument that can be used for further refinements. The authors apply the method to a sample of medical practitioners in Delhi, India. The method gives plausible results, rationalizes different perceptions of quality in the public and private sectors, and pinpoints several serious problems with health care delivery in urban India. The findings confirm, for instance, that the quality of private providers located in poorer areas of the city is significantly lower than those in richer neighborhoods. Surprisingly, similar results hold for providers in the public sector, with important implications for inequities in the availability of health care.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2004-03) Das, Jishnu ; Hammer, Jeffrey S.The quality of medical care is a potentially important determinant of health outcomes. Nevertheless, it remains an understudied area. The limited research that exists defines quality either on the basis of drug availability or facility characteristics, but little is known about how provider quality affects the provision of health care. The authors address this gap through a survey in Delhi with two related components. They evaluate "competence" (what providers know) through vignettes and practice (what providers do) through direct clinical observation. Overall quality as measured by the competence necessary to recognize and handle common and dangerous conditions is quite low, albeit with tremendous variation. While there is some correlation with simple observed characteristics, there is still an enormous amount of variation within such categories. Further, even when providers know what to do they often do not do it in practice. This appears to be true in both the public and private sectors though for very different, and systematic, reasons. In the public sector providers are more likely to commit errors of omission-they are less likely to exert effort compared with their private counterparts. In the private sector, providers are prone to errors of commission-they are more likely to behave according to the patient's expectations, resulting in the inappropriate use of medications, the overuse of antibiotics, and increased expenditures. This has important policy implications for our understanding of how market failures and failures of regulation in the health sector affect the poor.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2004-02) Das, Jishnu ; Dercon, Stefan ; Habyarimana, James ; Krishnan, PramilaThe relationship between school inputs and educational outcomes is critical for educational policy. The authors recognize that households will respond optimally to changes in school inputs and study how such responses affect the link between school inputs and cognitive achievement. To incorporate the forward-looking behavior of households, the authors present a household optimization model relating household resources and cognitive achievement to school inputs. In this framework, if household and school inputs are technical substitutes in the production function for cognitive achievement, the impact of unanticipated inputs is larger than that of anticipated inputs. The authors test the predictions of the model for nonsalary cash grants to schools using a unique data set from Zambia. They find that household educational expenditures and school cash grants are substitutes with a coefficient of elasticity between -0.35 and -0.52. Consistent with the optimization model, anticipated funds have no impact on cognitive achievement, but unanticipated funds lead to significant improvements in learning. This methodology has important implications for educational research and policy.
Publication(Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2005-03-01) Das, Jishnu ; Do, Quy-Toan ; Ozler, BerkDuring the past decade, the use of conditional cash transfer programs to increase investment in human capital has generated considerable excitement in both research and policy forums. This article surveys the existing literature, which suggests that most conditional cash transfer programs are used for essentially one of two purposes: restoring efficiency when externalities exist or improving equity by targeting resources to poor households. The programs often meet their stated objectives, but in some instances there is tension between the efficiency and equity objectives. The overall impact of a program depends on the gains and losses associated with each objective.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2003-02) Das, Jishnu ; Sánchez-Páramo, CarolinaIndia spends 6 percent of its GDP on health-three times the amount spent by Indonesia and twice that of China-and spending on non-chronic morbidities is three times that of chronic illnesses. It is normally assumed that the high spending on non-chronic illnesses reflects the prevalence of morbidities with high case-fatality or case-disability ratios. But there is little data that can be used to separate out spending by type of illness. The authors address this issue with a unique dataset where 1,621 individuals in Delhi were observed for 16 weeks through detailed weekly interviews on morbidity and health-seeking behavior. The authors' findings are surprising and contrary to the normal view of health spending. They define a new class of illnesses as "short duration morbidities" if they are classified as non-chronic in the international classification of disease and are medically expected to last less than two weeks. The authors show that short duration morbidities are important in terms of prevalence, practitioner visits, and household health expenditure: Individuals report a short duration morbidity in one out of every five weeks. Moreover, one out of every three weeks reported with a short duration morbidity results in a doctor visit, and each week sick with such a morbidity increases health expenditure by 25 percent. Further, the absolute spending on short duration morbidities is similar across poor and rich income households. The authors discuss the implications of these findings in understanding household health behavior in an urban context, with special emphasis on the role of information in health-seeking behavior.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2005-07) Das, Jishnu ; Hammer, JeffreyThe quality of medical care received by patients varies for two reasons: differences in doctors' competence or differences in doctors' incentives. Using medical vignettes, the authors evaluated competence for a sample of doctors in Delhi. One month later, they observed the same doctors in their practice. The authors find three patterns in the data. First, what doctors do is less than what they know they should do-doctors operate well inside their knowledge frontier. Second, competence and effort are complementary so that doctors who know more also do more. Third, the gap between what doctors do and what they know responds to incentives: doctors in the fee-for-service private sector are closer in practice to their knowledge frontier than those in the fixed-salary public sector. Under-qualified private sector doctors, even though they know less, provide better care on average than their better-qualified counterparts in the public sector. These results indicate that to improve medical services, at least for poor people, there should be greater emphasis on changing the incentives of public providers rather than increasing provider competence through training.
Publication( 2011-08-01) Das, Jishnu ; Hammer, Jeffrey ; Sánchez-Paramo, CarolinaBetween 2000 and 2002, the authors followed 1621 individuals in Delhi, India using a combination of weekly and monthly-recall health questionnaires. In 2008, they augmented these data with another 8 weeks of surveys during which households were experimentally allocated to surveys with different recall periods in the second half of the survey. This paper shows that the length of the recall period had a large impact on reported morbidity, doctor visits, time spent sick, whether at least one day of work/school was lost due to sickness, and the reported use of self-medication. The effects are more pronounced among the poor than the rich. In one example, differential recall effects across income groups reverse the sign of the gradient between doctor visits and per-capita expenditures such that the poor use health care providers more than the rich in the weekly recall surveys but less in monthly recall surveys. The authors hypothesize that illnesses -- especially among the poor -- are no longer perceived as "extraordinary events" but have become part of "normal" life. They discuss the implications of these results for health survey methodology, and the economic interpretation of sickness in poor populations.
Publication( 2011-06-01) Andrabi, Tahir ; Das, Jishnu ; Khwaja, Asim IjazWith an estimated 115 million children not attending primary school in the developing world, increasing access to education is critical. Resource constraints limit the effectiveness of demand-based subsidies. This paper focuses on the importance of a supply-side factor -- the availability of low-cost teachers -- and the resulting ability of the market to offer affordable education. The authors first show that private schools are three times more likely to emerge in villages with government girls' secondary schools (GSS). Identification is obtained by using official school construction guidelines as an instrument for the presence of GSS. In contrast, there is little or no relationship between the presence of a private school and girls' primary or boys' primary and secondary government schools. In support of a supply-channel, the authors then show that, for villages that received a GSS, there are over twice as many educated women and that private school teachers' wages are 27 percent lower in these villages. In an environment with poor female education and low mobility, GSS substantially increase the local supply of skilled women lowering wages locally and allowing the market to offer affordable education. These findings highlight the prominent role of women as teachers in facilitating educational access and resonate with similar historical evidence from developed economies. The students of today are the teachers of tomorrow.
Publication( 2009-09-01) Andrabi, Tahir ; Das, Jishnu ; Khwaja, Asim Ijaz ; Zajonc, TristanEvaluations of educational programs commonly assume that what children learn persists over time. The authors compare learning in Pakistani public and private schools using dynamic panel methods that account for three key empirical challenges to widely used value-added models: imperfect persistence, unobserved student heterogeneity, and measurement error. Their estimates suggest that only a fifth to a half of learning persists between grades and that private schools increase average achievement by 0.25 standard deviations each year. In contrast, estimates from commonly used value-added models significantly understate the impact of private schools on student achievement and/or overstate persistence. These results have implications for program evaluation and value-added accountability system design.