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Improving the Foundations of Human Capital Around the World: Evaluating Early Childhood Development Efforts in China, Brazil and India

Paper Session

Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020 2:30 PM - 4:30 PM (PDT)

Manchester Grand Hyatt, Harbor D
Hosted By: Association for Comparative Economic Studies
  • Chair: Scott D. Rozelle, Stanford University

Interactions as Investments

James J. Heckman
University of Chicago
Jin Zhou
University of Chicago


This paper analyzes a home visiting program in rural China patterned after the influential Jamaica Reach Up program. The program has strong effects on child skill development through early ages. We investigate the microfoundations of child production in order to understand the mechanisms of success. Specifically, we study the impacts of interactions of children with caregivers, interactions of children with home visitors, and interactions between caregivers and home visitors. The latter are, by far, the most powerful source of the observed treatment effects. Our analysis suggests ``investment'' as modeled in the child development literature on economics is actually interaction and not money or time per se.

Implementation and Evaluation of a Parenting Program in Rural Northeast Brazil: The Case of PADIN

Flavio Cunha
Rice University


The paper describes the implementation and evaluation of a home visitation with community meetings program targeted to parents living in low-income rural areas in the state of Ceara, Brazil. To evaluate the program, the team used the 2010 Census data to identify target areas. We randomly selected about half of these areas to receive the program whose implementation started in June 2017. The remaining areas were assigned to the control condition. In February 2017, our team collected baseline data in both control and treatment locations and we find that both areas are comparable in dimensions of child development and parent-child interaction. The paper also shows the results of the evaluation of the program impacts after one year of the program.

From 6 Months to 60: Sequential Interventions to Improve Child Development

Orazio Attanasio
University College London


Early years interventions have received considerable attention, as that period of the life cycle is perceived as particularly important. In this paper, using a large Randomized Control Trial in India, we assess the following questions:
1. What is the best time to start interventions?
2. What is the best way to deliver them?
3. How important is the interaction between very early stimulation interventions targeted to children 6 to 36 months and later interventions aimed at improving child care centres where children go from 36 to 60 months?
4. What is the best way of scaling up effective interventions?
The paper presents preliminary answers to these questions based on data from an RCT that combines a 2x2 design of early and late interventions.

Early Childhood Development in Rural China: Evidence from the Qinling Cohort Study

Nele Warrinnier
Queen Mary University of London


A growing body of research shows that human capital deficits in early life negatively affect later life outcomes while interventions in early childhood can improve health and productivity in adulthood. Given this evidence, early childhood development has risen as a policy priority globally. The Qinling Cohort Study aims to inform these policies in China. Across five waves of data collection, this study follows a cohort of 1800 children in rural China from 6 months until 5 years of age. This talk will use these data to discuss the developmental status of rural children and its evolution in early childhood. It will also present the short and medium-term results of embedded randomized trials testing the effects of micronutrient supplementation and an intervention providing parenting support through home visits.
Sean Sylvia
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
JEL Classifications
  • I3 - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
  • D9 - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics