Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Give girls a bicycle

It is well known that girls from developing countries face hurdles in their schooling experience. This goes from subtle issues during their periods, curricula geared towards boys, and household work to plain denial of access to schools. While some of this has to do with cultural issues that are difficult to overcome with (economic) policy, some help could be surprisingly easy. It happened before in public health, my favorite example being telling kids to wear shoes eradicated hookworm from many parts of the world.

Karthik Muralidharan and Nishith Prakash have a recommendation, and that is to give girls a bicycle. They base this on an experiment they ran in India, where girls were offered a bicycle if they continued into secondary education. This helped overcome traditions that would not let girls out of the village and increased enrollments by 30% and closed the boy-girl gap by 40%. The authors also claim this is more cost-effective that the traditional cash transfers because bicycles have positive externalities, such as the safety of girls during commutes and more generally empowering them. As with any such experiment, one can question whether the result can be generalized, but it is interesting nonetheless.

PS: As several readers noted by email (but could have commented), this is not a randomized experiment. Rather, the authors used an initiative conducted by the government of Bihar. I apologize for the confusion.

No comments: