Achieving child literacy and numeracy in the world’s poorest areas: Evidence from rural Guinea Bissau

Multiple scholars in this voxeu research:

Achieving universal basic literacy and numeracy has long been a policy goal for development agencies working in areas of extreme poverty. This column presents evidence from a bundled intervention in rural Guinea Bissau which suggests that targeted education policies can have substantial positive effects on children’s schooling outcomes. Such policies could play a key role in helping people ‘escape’ the poverty trap, as the education gains from such interventions elevate local children’s attainment levels far beyond those found in neighbouring areas.


Recently, interest has grown among economists in the potential for ‘bundled’ interventions to generate transformative change. Advocates for this brand of intervention explain that, in cases of extreme need, interventions with multiple complementary facets have the potential to improve outcomes far more than the sum of the estimated efficacy of their constituent parts. The most famous of these is Banerjee et al. (2015), which reports the results of a six-country study of such a bundled intervention aiming to improve the livelihoods of the very poor. The intervention combined a large asset transfer with training, coaching, and other support. The study found that this intervention led to large sustained gains in income, consistent with an ‘escape’ from extreme poverty. 


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