The Impact of Free Secondary Education: Experimental Evidence from Ghana
Following the widespread adoption of free primary education, African policymakers are now considering making secondary school free, but little is known about the private and social benefits of free secondary education. We exploit randomized assignment to secondary school scholarships among 2,064 youths in Ghana, combined with 12 years of data, to establish that scholarships increase educational attainment, knowledge, skills, and preventative health behaviors, while reducing female fertility. Eleven years after receipt of the scholarship, only female winners show private labor market gains, but those come primarily in the form of better access to jobs with rents (in particular rationed jobs in the public sector). We develop a simple model to interpret the labor market results and help think through the welfare impact of free secondary education.
This study is registered in The American Economic Association's registry for randomized controlled trials under RCT ID AEARCTR-0000015. The study protocol was approved by the IRBs of UCLA, Stanford, MIT and IPA. We thank the Ghana Education Service and IPA Ghana for their collaboration, and Jonathan Addie for outstanding project management. We are grateful to Ishita Ahmed, Madeline Duhon, Gabriella Fleischman, Erin Grela, Jinu Koola, Stephanie Kabukwor Adjovu, Ryan Knight, Victor Pouliquen, Nicolas Studer, Mark Walsh, and Alexandre Simoes Gomes for outstanding research assistance. The funding for this study was provided by the NIH (Grant #R01 HD039922), the JPAL Post-Primary Education Initiative, the IGC, 3ie, the Partnership for Child Development and the Nike Foundation. We thank them, without implicating them, for making this study possible. Dupas gratefully acknowledges the support of the NSF (award number 1254167). We also thank Rachel Glennerster for valuable input on the paper. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.