Working Papers

The Impact of Sustained Attention on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Ghana

with Chih Ming Tan (under review)

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In this paper, we go beyond traditional measures of cognitive abilities (IQ) in explaining labor market and social outcomes in developing countries. We exploit a rich dataset from Ghana that provides information on demographics, labor market outcomes, and a direct measure of cognitive ability along with other test scores to construct a measure of sustained attention. Our work is therefore related to the broader literature in Psychology on the importance of executive function on individual behavior and outcomes. We find that, at least for the case of Ghana, after controlling for IQ and other covariates, higher levels of sustained attention are associated with higher annual income, higher educational attainment, and a higher likelihood of being employed in a white collar job.

Keywords: Ghana; Executive Function; Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities; Earnings; Occupational Choice

JEL Codes: I10, I15, J24, J30, O12, O55


The Educational and Fertility Effects of Sibling Deaths 

with Marc Rockmore and Willa Friedman (under review)

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An emerging literature finds that childhood exposure to adverse events determines adult outcomes and behavior. We extend this research to understand the influence of witnessing a sibling death as a child on subsequent educational and fertility outcomes in Indonesia. Using panel data and a sibling fixed effects model, we identify this relationship based on variation in the age of surviving children within the same family. Our findings strongly support the importance and persistence of adverse childhood experiences. In particular, for surviving sisters, witnessing a sibling death reduces the years of completed education and the likelihood of completing secondary schooling. The effect on surviving brothers is more muted. A potential channel for this result is that women respond by changing their fertility behavior. While surviving the death of a sibling has little effect on desired fertility levels, we find evidence that surviving sisters start a family about 3-4 years earlier. This suggests that interventions targeted at early-life outcomes may have important ripple effects and that the full impact of health interventions may not be visible until decades afterwards.

Keywords: Child mortality, Siblings, Education, Fertility

JEL Codes: I10, J13, J16, O53


The Long-run Effects of the Yogyakarta Earthquake on Child Health

(under review)

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The research on early childhood exposure to natural disasters has rejuvenated the public policy debate of targeting most vulnerable sub populations. Given the multi-dimensionality of welfare the implications of experiencing such disasters could be vastly different.  This paper proxies welfare using a health metric and empirically investigates the exposure to the Yogyakarta earthquake on child health by combining data from Indonesia Family Life Survey. Once I decompose the effect of the earthquake based on variation in the age of exposure, I find irreversible damage to welfare arising from loss of human capital. Furthermore, the effect is concentrated on children under two year. On a broader spectrum, the long-term effects could be even more pronounced as these children grow older. The study finds that limited access to credit and the infrastructure damage as pathways through which exposure to earthquake manifests linear growth retardation in children.

Keywords: Earthquake; Childhood Shocks; Stunting; Cognitive Ability; Indonesia

JEL Codes: I15, J13, J16, O53