Session 2: Human Development: Education and Health (Part 1)
Improving maternal health with incentives to mothers vs. health workers: Evidence From India – Sisir Debnath (Indian School of Business)
How do better-ranked colleges help meet India’s skill shortages? – Subha Mani (Fordham University), Utteeyo Dasgupta (Wagner College)
Discussant: Pawan Kumar Agarwal (Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship) Abhiroop Mukhopadhyay (Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi Centre)
The session was chaired by Sudhanshu Bhushan (National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration).
Sisir Debnath (Indian School of Business) presented his work on “Improving maternal health with incentives to mothers vs. health workers: Evidence from India”. Using District Level Household Survey (DLHS) data, the project analyses the impact of Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) – a conditional cash transfer scheme that aims to incentivise mothers to deliver births at health facilities. It is found that JSY eligibility increases births at health facilities by 4 percentage points; the effect is greater (7 percentage points) during later years of the programme. JSY also increases the likelihood of prenatal care utilisation and immunisation. The marginal effect of giving incentives to health workers is greater than that of giving incentives to mothers. The discussant, Abhiroop Mukhopadhyay (Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi Centre) said that the results are difficult to untangle, particularly with respect to whether the effect is derived from the information given to the mothers or the money provided. He contended that this work ties into the broader question of whether all government officials should be incentivised, or if alternate policies may serve the purpose better.
Subha Mani (Fordham University) presented her research titled “The impact of peers on cognitive, non-cognitive, and behavioural outcomes: Evidence from India”. Using data from Delhi University, the study examines the effect of exposure to better-quality colleges/ high-achieving peers on cognitive, non-cognitive and behavioural aspects of human capital accumulation, which are rewarded in the labour market. It is found that there is a positive effect on test scores of women but not so much for men, which may be because women attend college more regularly. There is a reduction in risk-averse behaviour in women, but little effect on personality traits is found for both men and women. The discussant Pawan Kumar Agarwal (Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship) said that the spread of cognitive abilities of students in co-educational, morning colleges in Delhi University, admissions to which are very competitive, is narrow; hence, it may not be right to draw implications for national policy. The study did not take into account students that are admitted to the colleges through quotas, and in his view, there is not a lot of difference in the abilities of students in the general (non-quota) category. It may be interesting to look at the impact on cognitive and non-cognitive abilities of the quota students.