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 14
India Shining and Bharat Drowning : Comparing Two Indian States to the Worldwide Distribution in Mathematics Achievement(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008-06) Das, Jishnu ; Zajonc, TristanThis paper uses student answers to publicly released questions from an international testing agency together with statistical methods from Item Response Theory to place secondary students from two Indian states -Orissa and Rajasthan -on a worldwide distribution of mathematics achievement. These two states fall below 43 of the 51 countries for which data exist. The bottom 5 percent of children rank higher than the bottom 5 percent in only three countries-South Africa, Ghana and Saudi Arabia. But not all students test poorly. Inequality in the test-score distribution for both states is next only to South Africa in the worldwide ranking exercise. Consequently, and to the extent that these two states can represent India, the two statements "for every ten top performers in the United States there are four in India" and "for every ten low performers in the United States there are two hundred in India" are both consistent with the data. The combination of India's size and large variance in achievement give both the perceptions that India is shining even as Bharat, the vernacular for India, is drowning. Comparable estimates of inequalities in learning are the building blocks for substantive research on the correlates of earnings inequality in India and other low-income countries; the methods proposed here allow for independent testing exercises to build up such data by linking scores to internationally comparable tests.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2006-11) Das, Jishnu ; Pandey, Priyanka ; Zajonc, TristanThe authors report on a survey of primary public and private schools in rural Pakistan with a focus on student achievement as measured through test scores. Absolute learning is low compared with curricular standards and international norms. Tested at the end of the third grade, a bare majority had mastered the K-I mathematics curriculum and 31 percent could correctly form a sentence with the word "school" in the vernacular (Urdu). As in high-income countries, bivariate comparisons show that higher learning is associated with household wealth and parental literacy. In sharp contrast to high-income countries, these gaps decrease dramatically in a multivariate regression once differences between children in the same school are looked at. Consequently, the largest gaps are between schools. The gap in English test scores between government and private schools, for instance, is 12 times the gap between children from rich and poor families. To contextualize these results within a broader South Asian context, the authors use data from public schools in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. Levels of learning and the structure of the educational gaps are similar in the two samples. As in Pakistan, absolute learning is low and the largest gaps are between schools: the gap between good and bad government schools, for instance, is 5 times the gap between children with literate and illiterate mothers.
Publication(World Bank Group, Washington, DC, 2015-03) Andrabi, Tahir ; Das, Jishnu ; Khwaja, Asim IjazThis paper studies study the impact of providing school and child test scores on subsequent test scores, prices, and enrollment in markets with multiple public and private providers. A randomly selected half of the sample villages (markets) received report cards. This increased test scores by 0.11 standard deviations, decreased private school fees by 17 percent, and increased primary enrollment by 4.5 percent. Heterogeneity in the treatment impact by initial school quality is consistent with canonical models of asymmetric information. Information provision facilitates better comparisons across providers, improves market efficiency and raises child welfare through higher test scores, higher enrollment, and lower fees.
Publication( 2015-01) Coarasa, Jorge ; Das, JishnuMuch of the primary curative care provided to the poor by the private sector occurs not at large hospitals but at small, single-person clinics. While such micro-health providers increase access, questions persist about quality. Some have argued that the micro-health sector needs to be better regulated. This note cites recent studies in arguing that the micro-health sector needs to be better understood. A more evidence based approach may enable the World Bank Group to better target investments and interventions and help these providers fulfill an important role serving the poor. The following recommendations are made at the conclusion of this paper: (1) Effort, rather than hardware or training, may count the most. (2) Scaling up interventions to improve quality requires understanding and addressing market failures. (3) Changing the way impacts are measured will lead to smarter investments.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2016-02) Muralidharan, Karthik ; Das, Jishnu ; Holla, Alaka ; Mohpal, AakashThe relative return to input-augmentation versus inefficiency-reduction strategies for improving education system performance is a key open question for education policy in low-income countries. Using a new nationally-representative panel dataset of schools across 1297 villages in India, this paper shows that the large investments over the past decade have led to substantial improvements in input-based measures of school quality, but only a modest reduction in inefficiency as measured by teacher absence. In the data, 23.6 percent of teachers were absent during unannounced visits with an associated fiscal cost of $1.5 billion/year. There are two robust correlations in the nationally-representative panel data that corroborate findings from smaller-scale experiments. First, reductions in student-teacher ratios are correlated with increased teacher absence. Second, increases in the frequency of school monitoring are strongly correlated with lower teacher absence. Simulations using these results suggest that investing in better governance by increasing the frequency of monitoring could be over ten times more cost effective at increasing teacher-student contact time (net of teacher absence) than hiring more teachers. Thus, at current margins, policies that decrease the inefficiency of public spending in India are likely to yield substantially higher returns than those that augment inputs.
Publication( 2010-10-01) Andrabi, Tahir ; Das, JishnuWinning "hearts and minds" in the Muslim world is an explicitly acknowledged aim of U.S. foreign policy and increasingly, bilateral foreign aid is recognized as a vehicle towards this end. The authors examine the effect of aid from foreign organizations and on-the-ground presence of foreigners following the 2005 earthquake in Northern Pakistan on local attitudes. They show that four years after the earthquake, humanitarian assistance by foreigners and foreign organizations has left a lasting imprint on population attitudes. Measured in three different ways those living closer to the fault-line report more positive attitudes towards foreigners, including Europeans and Americans; trust in foreigners decreases 6 percentage points for every 10 Kilometers distance from the fault-line. In contrast, there is no association between distance to the fault-line and trust in local populations. Pre-existing differences in socioeconomic characteristics or population attitudes do not account for this finding. Instead, the relationship between trust in foreigners and proximity to the fault-line mirrors the greater provision of foreign aid and foreign presence in these villages. In villages closest to the fault-line, foreign organizations were the second largest providers of aid after the Pakistan army (despite reports to the contrary aid provision by militant organizations was extremely limited, with less than 1 percent of all respondents reporting any help from such organizations). The results provide a compelling case that trust in foreigners is malleable, responds to humanitarian actions by foreigners and is not a deep-rooted function of local preferences.
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( 2009-11-01) Andrabi, Tahir ; Das, Jishnu ; Khwaja, Asim IjazFemale education levels are very low in many developing countries. Does maternal education have a causal impact on children's educational outcomes even at these very low levels of education? By combining a nationwide census of schools in Pakistan with household data, the authors use the availability of girls' schools in the mother's birth village as an instrument for maternal schooling to address this issue. Since public schools in Pakistan are segregated by gender, the instrument affects only maternal education rather than the education levels of both mothers and fathers. The analysis finds that children of mothers with some education spend 75 minutes more on educational activities at home compared with children whose mothers report no education at all. Mothers with some education also spend more time helping their children with school work; the effect is stronger (an extra 40 minutes per day) in families where the mother is likely the primary care-giver. Finally, test scores for children whose mothers have some education are higher in English, Urdu (the vernacular), and mathematics by 0.24-0.35 standard deviations. There is no relationship between maternal education and mother s time spent on paid work or housework - a posited channel through which education affects bargaining power within the household. And there is no relationship between maternal education and the mother's role in educational decisions or in the provision of other child-specific goods, such as expenditures on pocket money, uniforms, and tuition. The data therefore suggest that at these very low levels of education, maternal education does not substantially affect a mother's bargaining power within the household. Instead, maternal education could directly increase the mother's productivity or affect her preferences toward children s education in a context where her bargaining power is low.
Publication( 2009-12) Das, Jishnu ; Do, Quy-Toan ; Shaines, Karen ; Srinivasan, SowmyaUsing a database of 76,046 empirical economics papers published between 1985 and 2004 in the top 202 economics journals, the authors report two associations. First, per-capita research output on a given country increases with the country's per capita gross domestic product (GDP). Regressions controlling for data availability and quality in the country, indicators of governance and the use of English yield an estimated research-GDP elasticity of 0.37; surprisingly, the United States (US) is not an outlier in the production of empirical research. Second, papers written about the US are far more likely to be published in the top five economics journals, even after the quality of research has been partially controlled for through fixed-effects for the authors' institutional affiliations; the estimates suggest that papers on the US are 2.6 percentage points more likely to be published in the top-five journals. This is a large effect because only 1.5 percent of all papers written about countries other than the US are published in the top-five journals. The authors speculate about the interpretations of these facts, and invite further analysis and additions to the public release of the database that accompanies this paper.