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Human Capital Accumulation in Developing Countries: Mechanisms, Constraints and Policies

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - HKADeC (Human Capital Accumulation in Developing Countries: Mechanisms, Constraints and Policies)

Reporting period: 2019-11-01 to 2021-04-30

It is now well established that the beginning of life is a crucial period in human development. What happens to individuals in the first three years of life incl. pregnancy has long run consequences which are reflected in many adult outcomes. Exposure to shocks and negative factors causes children to accumulate considerable delays and gaps in cognitive and socio-emotional skills, which are difficult to fill in later years. These problems are particularly severe in developing countries. Delays and shortcomings in human development create major obstacles to growth and the elimination of poverty in the long run. To design effective and feasible policies we need to gain a better understanding of the process of human development, especially in the early years.
The main objectives of this project are:
A better understanding of the process of human development in developing countries, with a particular focus on the early years and on the role of different inputs in the process, including parental behaviour and centre based care. We also want to identify how the dynamic of the process changes with age, as that is key to identify windows of opportunities that policies could exploit. Finally, we want to understand the interaction in the development process of different skills and outcomes, such as cognitive and socioemotional skills and health.
Studying the process of human development in the early years in a variety of data sets.
We look at different dimensions, their interaction and the dynamics of the process.
The role played in the process by parents and parenting practices.
Understanding parental behaviour.
Modelling parental choices in the early years in a variety of contexts and shown that these choices might interact with policy interventions.
Looking at models of parental beliefs and the role they play in determining parental investment.
Developing measurement tools:
Validating and using novel measures of child development and the environment where children live to measure conventional concepts.
This work has led to a number of papers.
The main results we have obtained so far are:
We have made substantial progress in estimating the main features of the process of child development in the early years.
In the first paper, NBER Working paper (https://www.nber.org/papers/w21740.pdf ) we use the Indian part of the data and develop a novel econometric to relate available measures to the different dimensions of development.
In the second paper, Review of Economic Dynamics, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1094202517300212?via%3Dihub, we use the same methods to analyse the data from Peru and Ethiopia.
We have used the similar techniques to estimate the process of child development in Colombia using the data that were used to evaluate a stimulation intervention in small towns.
A paper on the process of development in the Philippines that looks at the dynamics of health and nutrition.
On the process of investment behaviour, an important part of the first three papers mentioned above is about modelling the process of parental investment. In another two papers, we use somewhat unconventional data on parental beliefs.
In the first of the two papers that uses parental beliefs, we use a novel dataset from England that collects data on parental beliefs on the usefulness of different types of investment and analyses whether these variables are linked to actual investment.
http://www.orazioattanasio.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/nuffieldpaper_20190702.pdf
In the second paper that uses parental beliefs we use a novel data set that collects new measures of parental beliefs in Colombia, which we designed. This paper shows that parents tend to underestimate the productivity of parental investment.
On new measures in various dimensions, we have several studies that have designed and implemented new measures both in terms of child development and its determinants.
On the three main objectives of this research agenda ((i) the process of child development; (ii) the study of parental behaviour; (iii) the development of new measures) we have done substantial work which has improved substantially the state of the art.
On the process of child development we have:
Extended available techniques to convert measures of child development and its determinants in coherent synthetic measures that can be used to estimate the process of child development.
Extended statistical techniques to estimate the process of child development in a flexible way which allows the identification of its main determinants.
Used the estimated processes to identify windows of opportunities
Used the estimated processes to interpret the short run impacts of a stimulation and nutrition intervention in Colombia.
On parental investment:
Analysed how parental investment is driven by different factors that are likely not to have a direct effect on child development.
Estimated the effects of parental investment on child development.
Considered the role of parental beliefs and attitudes on parental investment.
On new measures:
Developed new measures of child development in different dimensions
Extended the use of statistical techniques to aggregate available measures
Developed new measures of beliefs.
We are working on a variety of other projects which will allow us to achieve further results. We list them by theme below:
On the process of child development:
Estimating the process of child development using a unique longitudinal data set from Colombia, which follows annually a group of children from birth to age 7.
Estimating the effect of different types of a stimulation intervention in India.
Estimating the impact on child development of different types of interventions on children aged 3 to 5.
We will studying the effects that network effects might have on child development in India.
On parental behaviour:
Continue our study of the determinants of parental investment within various studies
Continue the study of the role of parental beliefs.
On the construction of new measures:
Conducted an extensive pilot in Tanzania where we have developed new measures of different dimensions of child development.
Developing further our work on parental beliefs in Tanzania, doing some new field work to try new measures that using novel technology, such as fNEARS, EEG and possibly eye tracking and piloted a new measure of power within the marriage
Studying the data on beliefs in India.
Using new measures of child development in Ghana
We aim to produce new results in the following dimensions:
Characterise the process of child development in a richer form using high frequency data from Colombia
Characterise parents choices of child care for the 3 to 5. We will be using data from Colombia and India.
Writing up our findings on the construction and validation of new measures from Tanzania and Ghana.
Looking at the impacts of child care centres and their improvements in Colombia and Ghana.
Experimenting with new technologies to measure child development, including brain imaging and EEG, IN Tanzania.
Looking at the effects of successful asset transfers to the ultra poor on child development in Bangladesh and Pakistan and the effect on parenting practices and child development.
Using some DNA data to check whether different polygenic scores generate different impacts of child stimulation intervention in Colombia.