- Can provision of free school uniforms harm attendance? Evidence from Ecuador
- Number of pages
- Amsterdam [etc.]: Tinbergen Institute
- Tinbergen Institute discussion papers
- Volume | Edition (Serie)
- Document type
- Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB)
- Amsterdam School of Economics Research Institute (ASE-RI)
To raise school attendance, many programs in developing countries eliminate or reduce private contributions to education. This paper documents an unintended negative effect of such programs. Using data from a randomized experiment that provides free uniforms to primary school children in Ecuador, we find that the intervention has a significantly negative impact on attendance. An explanation is that parents who pay for their children’s uniforms (the control group) feel more committed to the school than parents who got the uniforms for free (the treated) and therefore encourage their children to attend school. Consistent with this sunk cost effect, we find that the impact is largest shortly after the purchase of the uniform, and during the end-of-year exam period when more is at stake.
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