Nina Cunha

Nina Cunha is a doctoral student in the Economics of Education program at Stanford University. She holds a Master's degree in Economics (MA) from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG - Brazil), and a Bachelor's degree in Economics (BA) from the São Paulo School of Economics (FGV – Brazil). At Stanford she works at the Center for Education Policy Analysis under the guidance of one of her advisors, Eric Bettinger. Most recently, Nina worked as a Consultant at the World Bank, in Latin America and the Caribbean region, and at Mgov, a mobile platform for policy design and impact evaluation.

Through her research, she is committed to diminishing the enormous gap between public policy and academic research. In particular, she conducts causal studies to investigate how educational policy can be shaped to improve teacher effectiveness and family engagement while leveraging cost-effective technology. Her dissertation is composed of three distinct randomized experiments. In the first study she explores the mechanisms behinds the effects of communicating with parents through a large field experiment performed in partnership with 289 public schools in the State of São Paulo. She finds that simply nudging parents about the importance of paying attention to a given behavior (e.g., “Going to school everyday is important”) is even more effective than sending parents real-time information (e.g., number of absences for their child in a given week), and has large impacts on attendance, test scores and promotion rates. In the second study she shows that a low-cost program focused on providing teachers with classroom observation feedback and access to expert coaching was successful in increasing teachers’ time on instruction, student engagement and learning gains. Through a separate text-message intervention with parents, the third study investigates whether poor families have a lower propensity to invest in their children’ education due to inattention or cognitive load.

Nina has established novel academic partnerships and developed a research style that promotes collaboration on a large scale. By partnering with two large states in Brazil not only did she field three large randomized trials, but I also directly impacted educational policy in those states. She is currently planning another field experiment in order to fine-tune the design of SMS campaigns for parents.

Selected working papers

Cunha, N. M.; Lichand, G.; Madeira, R., Bettinger, E. (2017). What is it about communicating with parents? See blog post on the World Bank’s Development Impact Blog: Attention or information? Why telling Nina’s parents she missed school makes her a better student.

Cunha, N. M.; Bruns, B.; Costa, L. (2017). Through the looking glass: can classroom observation and coaching improve teacher performance in Brazil? Conditionally accepted at Economics of Education Review.

Cunha, N. M. (2017). Parents: substitutes or complements to the school environment?. Under Review at Journal of Human Capital.

Faculty advisors: Eric P. Bettinger (Stanford), Susanna Loeb (Stanford)

Dissertation title and committee: “Educational policy and randomized trials: empirical evidence from Brazil”; Eric P. Bettinger (Stanford), Susanna Loeb (Stanford), Caroline Hoxby (Stanford), Ricardo Madeira (University of São Paulo)

Research interests: Education Policy, Economics of Education, Causal Methods in Quantitative Research, Development Economics

Ph.D. in Economics of Education, Stanford University, 2018
M.A. in Economics, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil, 2012
B.A. in Economics, São Paulo School of Economics (FGV), Brazil, 2009

Contact Info:
Center for Education Policy Analysis Stanford University
520 Galvez Mall, Office 115
Stanford, CA 94305