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Public Primary School Expansion, Gender-based Crowding Out, and Intergenerational Educational Mobility

Ahsan, Md Nazmul and Shilpi, Forhad and Emran, Shahe (2023): Public Primary School Expansion, Gender-based Crowding Out, and Intergenerational Educational Mobility.

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From 1965 to 1985, the number of schools doubled in developing countries, but little is known about their impacts on intergenerational educational mobility. We study the effects of 61,000 public primary schools constructed in the 1970s in Indonesia on intergenerational educational mobility, using full-count census data and a credible identification strategy. The educational mobility curve is concave in most of the cases, and school expansion reduced the degree of concavity. Evidence from a DiD design on primary completion suggests contrasting effects across the distribution: relative mobility improved irrespective of gender in the uneducated households, but it worsened in the highly educated households. For completed years of schooling, there are striking gender differences, with strong effects on sons, but no significant effects on girls. This surprising finding reflects an unintended bottleneck at the secondary schooling level which created a fierce competition among the Inpres primary graduates. The girls suffered an 8.5 percentage points decline in the probability of completing senior secondary schooling, while the boys reaped a 7.7 percentage points gain. The gender-based crowding out occurred across the board, suggesting mechanisms unrelated to family background such as low labor market returns for girls and gender norms in a patrilineal society. Available evidence on returns to education of girls rejects a labor market based explanation. We test and find evidence consistent with gender norms as a mechanism by exploiting data from the Matrilineal island West Sumatra. In West Sumatra, girls are not crowded out at the secondary level, instead the boys face significant crowding out.

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