The impact of career opportunities on aspirations and educational outcomes

Project Active from to State and State Effectiveness

Issues surrounding recruiting and motivating a high-performing public workforce are central to efforts to improve state effectiveness. The research team conducted a national recruitment experiment in Zambia - embedded in the 2012 launch of a new cadre of community health workers (CHW) - the Community Health Assistant (CHA). In contrast to volunteer CHWs, CHAs are government employees who are trained centrally and then re-deployed to their communities of origin.

Two different recruitment posters were randomised across 48 rural districts, emphasising the benefits of becoming a CHA to one’s community or to one’s career. After 18 months, CHAs recruited with career incentives were significantly more effective on a variety of metrics (see Ashraf, Davenport, Bandiera, and Lee, 2019).

The present project examines a novel set of long-term outcomes in order to more deeply understand the impact of the CHA programme. Namely, the intergenerational effects of recruiting high performing public servants in terms of families’ aspirations and adolescents’ human capital attainment.

Existing research neglects the fact that more effectively attracting talent to the public sector may have important knock-on effects which change the overall impact of a policy. The researchers hypothesise that if public service delivery draws in the most skilled individuals and gives them opportunities to advance their career - while serving their local communities - the aspirations and human capital investment of the next generation will be impacted. Thus, a new pool of talent is created.

This project’s results will feed into both a national and more general policy dialogue regarding state effectiveness. On the national front, while the Ministry of Health makes decisions regarding the CHA programme’s future, results regarding the new cadre’s broader impacts will directly inform the policymaking process.

More generally, this project will inform the process of finding talent for state capacity in rural communities. In particular, shedding light on the formation of aspirations allows the identification of existing talent in these communities and how providing local career opportunities can build this talent from the ground up. Thus creating a virtuous cycle of human resource development and public service delivery.