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
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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., 2004-02) 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.
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(Washington, DC : World Bank, 2006-11) Andrabi, Tahir ; Das, Jishnu ; Khwaja, Asim IjazThis paper looks at the private schooling sector in Pakistan, a country that is seriously behind schedule in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Using new data, the authors document the phenomenal rise of the private sector in Pakistan and show that an increasing segment of children enrolled in private schools are from rural areas and from middle-class and poorer families. The key element in their rise is their low fees-the average fee of a rural private school in Pakistan is less than a dime a day (Rs.6). They hire predominantly local, female, and moderately educated teachers who have limited alternative opportunities outside the village. Hiring these teachers at low cost allows the savings to be passed on to parents through low fees. This mechanism-the need to hire teachers with a certain demographic profile so that salary costs are minimized-defines the possibility of private schools: where they arise, fees are low. It also defines their limits. Private schools are horizontally constrained in that they arise in villages where there is a pool of secondary educated women. They are also vertically constrained in that they are unlikely to cater to the secondary levels in rural areas, at least until there is an increase in the supply of potential teachers with the required skills and educational levels.
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, Washington, DC, 2005-02) Andrabi, Tahir ; Das, Jishnu ; Khwaja, Asim Ijaz ; Zajonc, TristanBold assertions have been made in policy reports and popular articles on the high and increasing enrollment in Pakistani religious schools, commonly known as madrassas. Given the importance placed on the subject by policymakers in Pakistan and those internationally, it is troubling that none of the reports and articles reviewed based their analysis on publicly available data or established statistical methodologies. The authors of this paper use published data sources and a census of schooling choice to show that existing estimates are inflated by an order of magnitude. Madrassas account for less than 1 percent of all enrollment in the country and there is no evidence of a dramatic increase in recent years. The educational landscape in Pakistan has changed substantially in the past decade, but this is due to an explosion of private schools, an important fact that has been left out of the debate on Pakistani education. Moreover, when the authors look at school choice, they find that no one explanation fits the data. While most existing theories of madrassa enrollment are based on household attributes (for instance, a preference for religious schooling or the household s access to other schooling options), the data show that among households with at least one child enrolled in a madrassa, 75 percent send their second (and/or third) child to a public or private school or both. Widely promoted theories simply do not explain this substantial variation within households.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2005-04) Das, Jishnu ; Dercon, Stefan ; Habyarimana, James ; Krishnan, PramilaA large literature examines the link between shocks to households and the educational attainment of children. The authors use new data to estimate the impact of shocks to teachers on student learning in mathematics and English. Using absenteeism in the 30 days preceding the survey as a measure of these shocks they find large impacts: A 5 percent increase in the teacher's absence rate reduces learning by 4 to 8 percent of average gains over the year. This reduction in learning achievement likely reflects both the direct effect of increased absenteeism and the indirect effects of less lesson preparation and lower teaching quality when in class. The authors document that health problems-primarily teachers' own illness and the illnesses of their family members-account for more than 60 percent of teacher absences; not surprising in a country struggling with an HIV/AIDS epidemic. The relationship between shocks to teachers and student learning suggests that households are unable to substitute adequately for teaching inputs. Excess teaching capacity that allows for the greater use of substitute teachers could lead to larger gains in student learning.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2013-05) Alderman, Harold ; Das, Jishnu ; Rao, VijayendraThis essay discusses practical issues confronted when conducting surveys as well as designing appropriate field trials. First, it looks at the challenge of ensuring transparency while maintaining confidentiality. Second, it explores the role of trust in light of asymmetric information held by the surveyor and by the respondents as well as the latter's expectations as to what their participation will set in motion. The authors present case studies relevant to both of these issues. Finally, they discuss the role of ethical review from the perspective of research conducted through the World Bank.
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( 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.