Professor of Economics, Northwestern University
Pre-primary schooling is available but has low participation in many developing countries, which could exacerbate the socioeconomic gradient in readiness for primary school. We study the effects of expanding access to kindergarten on child development in Karnataka, India, through a randomized evaluation. We partnered with a private kindergarten provider to offer two-year scholarships to children in low-income families. Children who attend our partner's kindergarten due to the scholarship experience a 0.8 standard deviation gain in cognitive development. About 40% of the effect persists through the first year of primary school. We find no effect on socioemotional development. Some children induced to attend our partner's kindergarten would have attended no kindergarten, while others would have attended a different kindergarten. We use machine learning techniques to predict each child's counterfactual activity and then estimate separate treatment effects for different types of switchers. The short-run effect on cognition is driven by children who would not have otherwise attended kindergarten, but the persistent component of the effect does not vary by counterfactual.