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Scott Rozelle
Journal Articles

Health, Economic, and Social Implications of COVID-19 for China's Rural Population

Huan Wang, Sarah-Eve Dill, Huan Zhou, Yue Ma, Hao Xue, Sean Sylvia, Kumi Smith, Matthew Boswell, Alexis Medina, Prashant Loyalka, Cody Abbey, Dimitris Friesen, Nathan Rose, Yian Guo, Scott Rozelle
Agricultural Economics, 2021 May 11, 2021

This study examines the effects of local and nationwide COVID‐19 disease control measures on the health and economy of China's rural population. We conducted phone surveys with 726 randomly selected village informants across seven rural Chinese provinces in February 2020. Four villages (0.55%) reported infections, and none reported deaths. Disease control measures had been universally implemented in all sample villages. About 74% of informants reported that villagers with wage‐earning jobs outside the village had stopped working due to workplace closures. A higher percentage of rural individuals could not work due to transportation, housing, and other constraints. Local governments had taken measures to reduce the impact of COVID‐19. Although schools in all surveyed villages were closed, 71% of village informants reported that students were attending classes online. Overall, measures to control COVID‐19 appear to have been successful in limiting disease transmission in rural communities outside the main epidemic area. Rural Chinese citizens, however, have experienced significant economic consequences from the disease control measures.

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Journal Articles

Trajectories of Child Cognitive Development During Ages 0-3 in Rural Western China: Prevalence, Risk Factors and Links to Preschool-Age Cognition

Lei Wang, Yifei Chen, Sean Sylvia, Sarah-Eve Dill, Scott Rozelle
BMC Pediatrics, 2021 April 26, 2021

Background:
Cognitive development after age three tends to be stable and can therefore predict cognitive skills in later childhood. However, there is evidence that cognitive development is less stable before age three. In rural China, research has found large shares of children under age three are developmentally delayed, yet little is known about the trajectories of cognitive development between 0 and 3 years of age or how developmental trajectories predict later cognitive skills. This study seeks to describe the trajectories of child cognitive development between the ages of 0–3 years and examine how different trajectories predict cognitive development at preschool age.

Methods:
We collected three waves of longitudinal panel data from 1245 children in rural Western China. Child cognitive development was measured by the Bayley Scales of Infant Development when the child was 6–12 months and 22–30 months, and by the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence-Fourth Edition when the child was 49–65 months. We used the two measures of cognitive development before age three to determine the trajectories of child cognitive development.

Results:
Of the children, 39% were never cognitively delayed; 13% were persistently delayed; 7% experienced improving cognitive development; and 41% experienced deteriorating development before age 3. Compared to children who had never experienced cognitive delay, children with persistent cognitive delay and those with deteriorating development before age 3 had significantly lower cognitive scores at preschool age. Children with improving development before age 3 showed similar levels of cognition at preschool age as children who had never experienced cognitive delay.

Conclusions:
Large shares of children under age 3 in rural Western China show deteriorating cognitive development from infancy to toddlerhood, which predict lower levels of cognition at preschool age. Policymakers should invest in improving cognitive development before age 3 to prevent long-term poor cognition among China’s rural children.

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Journal Articles

Publishing and Assessing the Research of Economists: Lessons from Public Health

Sean Sylvia, Scott Rozelle
China Economic Review, 2021 April 1, 2021

We highlight a growing concern in the economics profession that young scholars face incentives that are misaligned with conducting research that furthers knowledge and addresses pressing policy problems. The premium given to publication in top journals leads to an emphasis on exhaustive treatment of narrow questions. Detailed, robustly identified studies of novel questions are of undeniable value; however, the opportunity cost of producing such studies is large in terms of research quantity and policy relevance. For economists who aim to achieve what we view as the ultimate goals of academic research (enhancing understanding of the world, solving social problems, and building foundational knowledge to enable future breakthroughs), we offer some insights from publication philosophy in the field of public health. We discuss how public health has developed norms around publishing that are more successful in meeting these ultimate goals. We then offer thoughts on potential lessons for young economists in China and the economics discipline.

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Policy Briefs

Tracking China's Economic Path

Hongbin Li, Scott Rozelle
2021 March 30, 2021

Stanford scholars are setting and expanding research agendas to analyze China’s economic development and its impact on the world. The newly launched Stanford Center on China’s Economy and Institutions — co-directed by SIEPR senior fellows Hongbin Li and Scott Rozelle — is supporting their work. In this SIEPR Policy Brief, Li and Rozelle outline the research underway by the new center's affiliates.

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Journal Articles

Variations in the Home Language Environment and Early Language Development in Rural China

Yue Ma, Laura Jonsson, Tianli Feng, Tyler Weisberg, Teresa Shao, Zixin Yao, Dongming Zhang, Sarah-Eve Dill, Yian Guo, Yue Zhang, Dimitris Friesen, Scott Rozelle
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2021 March 6, 2021

The home language environment is critical to early language development and subsequent skills. However, few studies have quantitatively measured the home language environment in low-income, developing settings. This study explores variations in the home language environment and child language skills among households in poor rural villages in northwestern China. Audio recordings were collected for 38 children aged 20–28 months and analyzed using Language Environment Analysis (LENA) software; language skills were measured using the MacArthur–Bates Mandarin Communicative Developmental Inventories expressive vocabulary scale. The results revealed large variability in both child language skills and home language environment measures (adult words, conversational turns, and child vocalizations) with 5- to 6-fold differences between the highest and lowest scores. Despite variation, however, the average number of adult words and conversational turns were lower than found among urban Chinese children. Correlation analyses did not identify significant correlations between demographic characteristics and the home language environment. However, the results do indicate significant correlations between the home language environment and child language skills, with conversational turns showing the strongest correlation. The results point to a need for further research on language engagement and ways to increase parent–child interactions to improve early language development among young children in rural China.

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Journal Articles

Improving Learning by Improving Vision: Evidence from Two Randomized Controlled Trials of Providing Vision Care in China

Xiaochen Ma, Huan Wang, Yaojiang Shi, Sean Sylvia, Lei Wang, Yiwei Qian, Scott Rozelle
Journal of Development Effectiveness, 2021 February 26, 2021

This paper examines the external validity of health intervention by comparing the impacts of providing free eyeglasses on the educational performance of nearsighted children in two settings: rural public schools in Western China and urban private migrant schools in Eastern China. The intervention significantly improves educational outcomes by 0.14 standard deviations in math in rural public schools but not in private migrant schools. The difference in measured impacts is due in part to lower quality schooling in migrant schools in Eastern China. Our findings show that only when school is providing a quality education, health interventions might increase student learnings.

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Journal Articles

The Impact of Internet Use on Adolescent Learning Outcomes: Evidence from Rural China

Lili Li, Yue Ma, Dimitris Friesen, Zhonggen Zhang, Songqing Jin, Scott Rozelle
China Agricultural Economic Review, 2021 February 12, 2021

Purpose:
Internet use has become particularly prevalent among adolescents, prompting much thought and concern about both its potential benefits and adverse effects on adolescent learning outcomes. Much of the empirical literature on the impact of Internet use on adolescent learning outcomes is mixed, and few studies examine the causal relationship between the two in rural China. In order to bridge these gaps, we use empirical analysis to investigate the effect of Internet use on the learning outcomes of adolescents in rural China.

Design/methodology/approach:
We use fixed effect models with samples drawn from a large nationally representative dataset (the China Family Panel Studies—CFPS) to identify the causal impacts of Internet use on the learning outcomes of three cohorts (Cohort A (N = 540), Cohort B (N = 287) and Cohort C (N = 827)) of adolescents in rural China.

Findings:
The results of the descriptive analysis show a continued increase in the number of adolescents accessing the Internet and the amount of time they spend online. The results of the fixed effect models show that Internet use has positive (in many of the analyses), but mostly insignificant impacts, on the learning outcomes of adolescents. In the sets of results that find significant associations between Internet use and learning outcomes, the measured effects are moderate.

Originality/value:
This study investigates the causal relationship between Internet use and adolescent learning outcomes in rural China. The findings claim that there is not a great need to worry about adverse effects of Internet use on adolescent learning development. Attention, however, should focus on seeking ways to improve the positive effects of the Internet use on adolescent learning outcomes. The study will provide a reference and experience for the development of education and the Internet in rural areas and promote the integrated development of urban and rural areas in China.

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Journal Articles

Early Childhood Reading in Rural China and Obstacles to Caregiver Investment in Young Children: A Mixed-Methods Analysis

Rui Li, Nathan Rose, Yi Ming Zheng, Yunwei Chen, Sean Sylvia, Henry Wilson-Smith, Alexis Medina, Sarah-Eve Dill, Scott Rozelle
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , 2021 February 4, 2021
Studies have shown that nearly half of rural toddlers in China have cognitive delays due to an absence of stimulating parenting practices, such as early childhood reading, during the critical first three years of life. However, few studies have examined the reasons behind these low levels of stimulating parenting, and no studies have sought to identify the factors that limit caregivers from providing effective early childhood reading practices (EECRP). This mixed-methods study investigates the perceptions, prevalence, and correlates of EECRP in rural China, as well as associations with child cognitive development. We use quantitative survey results from 1748 caregiver–child dyads across 100 rural villages/townships in northwestern China and field observation and interview data with 60 caregivers from these same sites. The quantitative results show significantly low rates of EECRP despite positive perceptions of early reading and positive associations between EECRP and cognitive development. The qualitative results suggest that low rates of EECRP in rural China are not due to the inability to access books, financial or time constraints, or the absence of aspirations. Rather, the low rate of book ownership and absence of reading to young children is driven by the insufficient and inaccurate knowledge of EECRP among caregivers, which leads to their delayed, misinformed reading decisions with their young children, ultimately contributing to developmental delays.
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Journal Articles

Tracking the Effects of COVID-19 in Rural China Over Time

Huan Wang, Markus Zhang, Robin Li, Oliver Zhong, Hannah Johnstone, Huan Zhou, Hao Xue, Sean Sylvia, Matthew Boswell, Prashant Loyalka, Scott Rozelle
International Journal for Equity in Health, 2021 January 14, 2021
Background: China issued strict nationwide guidelines to combat the COVID-19 outbreak in January 2020 and gradually loosened the restrictions on movement in early March. Little is known about how these disease control measures affected the 600 million people who live in rural China. The goal of this paper is to document the quarantine measures implemented in rural China outside the epicenter of Hubei Province and to assess the socioeconomic effect of the measures on rural communities over time. Methods: We conducted three rounds of interviews with informants from 726 villages in seven provinces, accounting for over 25% of China’s overall rural population. The survey collected data on rural quarantine implementation; COVID-19 infections and deaths in the survey villages; and effects of the quarantine on employment, income, education, health care, and government policies to address any negative impacts. The empirical findings of the work established that strict quarantine measures were implemented in rural villages throughout China in February. Results: There was little spread of COVID-19 in rural communities: an infection rate of 0.001% and zero deaths reported in our sample. However, there were negative social and economic outcomes, including high rates of unemployment, falling household income, rising prices, and disrupted student learning. Health care was generally accessible, but many delayed their non-COVID-19 health care due to the quarantine measures. Only 20% of villagers received any form of local government aid, and only 11% of villages received financial subsidies. There were no reports of national government aid programs that targeted rural villagers in the sample areas. Conclusions: By examining the economic and social effects of the COVID-19 restrictions in rural communities, this study will help to guide other middle- and low-income countries in their containment and restorative processes. Without consideration for economically vulnerable populations, economic hardships and poverty will likely continue to have a negative impact on the most susceptible communities.
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Journal Articles

Rural Minimum Living Standard Guarantee (Rural Dibao) Program Boosts Children's Education Outcomes in Rural China

Zixuan He, Xiangming Fang, Nathan Rose, Xiaodong Zheng, Scott Rozelle
China Agricultural Economic Review, 2021 January 8, 2021

Purpose: To combat poverty in China's rural areas, Chinese government has established an unconditional cash transfer program known as the Rural Minimum Living Standard Guarantee (Rural Dibao) Program. Interestingly, despite the importance of education in breaking cycles of poverty, little is known about Rural Dibao's impact on rural children's education.

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Journal Articles

The Impact of Online Computer Assisted Learning at Home for Disadvantaged Children in Taiwan: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment

Bin Tang, Te-Tien Ting, Chyi-In Wu, Yue Ma, Di Mo, Wei-Ting Hung, Scott Rozelle
Sustainability, 2020 December 3, 2020
In Taiwan, thousands of students from Yuanzhumin (aboriginal) families lag far behind their Han counterparts in academic achievement. When they fall behind, they often have no way to catch up. There is increased interest among both educators and policymakers in helping underperforming students catch up using computer-assisted learning (CAL). The objective of this paper is to examine the impact of an intervention aimed at raising the academic performance of students using an in-home CAL program. According to intention-to-treat estimates, in-home CAL improved the overall math scores of students in the treatment group relative to the control group by 0.08 to 0.20 standard deviations (depending on whether the treatment was for one or two semesters). Furthermore, Average Treatment Effect on the Treated analysis was used for solving the compliance problem in our experiment, showing that in-home CAL raised academic performance by 0.36 standard deviations among compliers. This study thus presents preliminary evidence that an in-home CAL program has the potential to boost the learning outcomes of disadvantaged students.
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Journal Articles

The Impacts of Highly Resourced Vocational Schools on Student Outcomes in China

Guirong Li, Jiajia Xu, Liying Li, Zhaolei Shi, Hongmei Yi, James Chu, Elena Kardanova, Yanyan Li, Prashant Loyalka, Scott Rozelle
China & World Economy, 2020 December 1, 2020
Policymakers in developing countries have prioritized the mass expansion of vocational education and training (VET). Evidence suggests, however, that the quality of VET can be poor. One possible reason given by policymakers for this is a lack of resources per student. The goal of this study is to examine whether the quality of VET in developing countries increases by investing greater resources per student. To achieve this goal, we examine the impacts of attending model schools (which have far more resources per student) compared with non-model schools (which have fewer resources) on a range of student cognitive, non-cognitive, and behavioral outcomes. Using representative data from a survey of approximately 12,000 VET students from China, multivariate regression and propensity score matching analyses show that there are no significant benefits, in terms of student outcomes, from attending model vocational high schools, despite their substantially greater resources.
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Journal Articles

Maternal Health Behaviors During Pregnancy in Rural Northwestern China

Yue Ma, Yujuan Gao, Jason Li, Andrew Sun, Baozhu Wang, Jun Zhang, Sarah-Eve Dill, Alexis Medina, Scott Rozelle
BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 2020 December 1, 2020

Background: Maternal health during pregnancy is a key input in fetal health and child development. This study
aims to systematically describe the health behaviors of pregnant women in rural China and identify which
subgroups of women are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors during pregnancy.

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Journal Articles

Effects of Baby-Friendly Practices on Breastfeeding Duration in China: A Case-Control Study

Yue Zhang, Jinliuxing Yang, Wenhao Li, Nianrong Wang, Ya Ye, Shuangqin Yan, Sumei Wang, Ting Zeng, Zijuan Huang, Fenghua Zhang, Yin Li, Shiyi Yao, Haijun Wang, Scott Rozelle, Tao Xu, Xi Jin
International Breastfeeding Journal, 2020 November 3, 2020
Background:  The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is generally considered an effective way to promote breastfeeding. Although China has the largest number of baby-friendly hospitals in the world, research on baby-friendly practices in China is limited, and the rate of exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) at 6 months, 20.7%, compared to the 2025 global goal of 50% is low. It is, therefore, important to determine the factors that remain significant barriers to EBF in China. To explore how the key baby-friendly practices affect EBF duration in China, we used a case-control study to compare the effects of baby-friendly-related practices on both EBF and non-breastfeeding (NBF) mothers at 3 months and to investigate the effects of both single and comprehensive baby-friendly practices in promoting EBF duration at 3 months, which is one step toward EBF at 6 months. Methods:  Participants were recruited from four maternal and child health hospitals in western (Chongqing), eastern (Qingdao), southern (Liuzhou), and central China (Maanshan). A total of 421 mothers (245 in the EBF group, 176 in the NBF group) of infants aged 3 months were surveyed through a self-reported questionnaire from April 2018 to March 2019. The experience of baby-friendly practices and breastfeeding during hospitalization were assessed with yes/no questions. Socio-demographic factors that influenced breastfeeding at 3 months were analyzed using bivariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses. Results:  Of mothers in the EBF group, 65.57% reported engaging in at least seven baby-friendly practices compared to 47.72% of mothers in the NBF group. Significantly more mothers in the EBF group engaged in baby-friendly practices than in the NBF group. These practices included “breastfeeding within one hour after birth” (74.29% vs. 59.09%), “breastfeeding on demand” (86.48% vs. 75.00%), and “never use a pacifier” (46.53% vs. 31.25%). After adjusting for confounding variables, we found that the mothers who engaged in fewer than seven baby-friendly practices were about 1.7 times less likely to breastfeed than were those who engaged in seven or more baby-friendly practices (odds ratio [OR] 1.720, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.106, 2.667). Further, the mothers who did not breastfeed on demand were as likely to not breastfeed up to 3 months (OR 2.263, 95% CI 1.265, 4.049), as were mothers who did not breastfeed during hospitalization (OR 4.379, 95% CI 1.815, 10.563). Conclusions:  These data from hospitals in China suggest that higher compliance with baby-friendly practices may have a positive impact on EBF at 3 months, particularly in terms of promoting the implementation of breastfeeding on demand and breastfeeding during hospitalization in China.
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Journal Articles

Early Child Development and Caregiver Subjective Well-Being in Rural China

Renfu Luo, Qijia Lyu, Scott Rozelle, Shun Wang
China Agricultural Economic Review, 2020 October 29, 2020

Purpose: This study aims to bridge the gaps in the existing literature by studying the links between children's development and the subjective well-being of the caregivers using first-hand data collected in rural China. Design/methodology/approach: Although the broad array of literature has examined the effects of child development on the subjective well-being of caregivers, the relationship between early childhood development and caregiver subjective well-being has not been well-studied using sample families with potential developmental delay in rural China. Also, existing research has relied on maternal reports to evaluate the developmental status of children. The study used data collected from 32 townships in seven nationally designated poverty counties in the Qinling mountainous area in 2016. The authors measure child development using the social-emotional module of the Ages & Stages Questionnaire and Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development–Third Edition. Findings: The authors find that child development indicators are correlated with caregiver subjective well-being. In particular, social-emotional skills are positively associated with life evaluations and positive emotion. However, we do not find any significant correlation between child development and negative emotion or depression, anxiety and stress scores. Originality/value: The value of this study is to report the indicators of child development in rural China and examines the correlation between child development and caregivers' subjective well-being.

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Journal Articles

Moving Beyond Lewis: Employment and Wage Trends in China’s High- and Low-Skilled Industries and the Emergence of an Era of Polarization

Scott Rozelle, Yiran Xia, Dimitris Friesen, Bronson Vanderjack, Nourya Cohen
Comparative Economic Studies, 2020 October 21, 2020
One of the defining features of China’s economy over the two decades between 1995 and 2015 was the persistent rise of wages for workers and professionals in nearly every segment of the economy—with wage rates for labor-intensive jobs in manufacturing, construction, and the informal service sector rising the fastest. Recently, however, the economic environment in China has begun to change, including changes in both employment and wages. We identify recent employment/wage trends throughout China’s economy and postulate the sources of these trends as well as possible future consequences if they continue. We use official, nationally aggregated data to examine employment and wages in multiple sectors and industries. Our findings indicate that China may have entered a new phase of economic development in the mid-2010s. According to the data, in recent years, wage growth has begun to polarize: Rising for professionals employed in formal skill-intensive industries; and falling for workers in the informal labor-intensive service sector. We attribute this increase in skill-intensive wages to an increase in demand for skill-intensive employment, due to the emergence of a large middle class in China, for whom the demand for high technology, finance, banking, health, and higher education industries is increasing while, at least in the recent short term, the supply of experienced, high-skilled professionals has not kept up. The employment/wage trend in the informal (low-wage) service sector, however, is following a different pattern. While there is a rising demand for services in China’s economy, the growth, due to a number of factors (e.g., large shares of GDP targeted by policymakers to investment; high rates of savings by consumers), is relatively slow. In contrast, due to a number of economic forces, including globalization and automation, the supply of labor into the service sector of the informal economy is being fueled by the flow of labor out of manufacturing and construction (two industries that that have experienced employment declines since 2013). These supply and demand trends, in turn, are leading to the fall in the growth rate of wages in the informal service sector. We conclude by discussing the possible longer-term consequences of these emerging polarization trends based on an examination of recent experience with wage polarization occurring in both middle- and high-income countries, as well as its consequences. We also present policy recommendations for greater investment in education and human capital, as well as for the development of a more comprehensive set of social safety nets for different segments of China’s population.
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Working Papers

Off the Epicenter: COVID-19 Quarantine Controls and Employment, Education, and Health Impacts in Rural Communities

Huan Wang, Sarah-Eve Dill, Huan Zhou, Yue Ma, Hao Xue, Prashant Loyalka, Sean Sylvia, Matthew Boswell, Jason Lin, Scott Rozelle
2020 October 19, 2020

In late January 2020, China’s government initiated its first aggressive measures to combat COVID-19 by forbidding individuals from leaving their homes, radically limiting public transportation, cancelling or postponing large public events, and closing schools across the country. The rollout of these measures coincided with China’s Lunar New Year holiday, during which more than 280 million people had returned from their places of work to their home villages in rural areas. The disease control policies remained in place until late February and early March, when they were gradually loosened to

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Journal Articles

Visual Impairment in Rural and Migrant Chinese School-Going Children: Prevalence, Severity, Correction and Association

Yue Ma, Xinwu Zhang, Fei He, Xiaochen Ma, Hongmei Yi, Nathan Rose, Alexis Medina, Scott Rozelle, Nathan Congdon
BMJ Ophthalmology, 2020 October 11, 2020
Purpose To describe changes in the prevalence of visual impairment and glasses ownership with age and as associated with income and population density for visual impairment among rural and urban migrant Chinese students. Design Meta-analysis of 12 cross-sectional, school-based studies conducted between 2012 and 2017. Setting Rural and urban migrant schools in seven Chinese provinces. Participants A total of 83 273 rural and urban migrant Chinese students aged 6–17 years. Results Prevalence of visual impairment (uncorrected visual acuity ≤6/12 in either eye) rose from 19.0% at age 6 to 66.9% at 17, with the overall age-adjusted prevalence higher for girls (35.8%) than for boys (30.1%, p
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Books

Invisible China: How the Urban-Rural Divide Threatens China’s Rise

Scott Rozelle, Natalie Hell
University of Chicago Press, 2020 October 6, 2020

Book Synopsis:

As the glittering skyline in Shanghai seemingly attests, China has quickly transformed itself from a place of stark poverty into a modern, urban, technologically savvy economic powerhouse. But as Scott Rozelle and Natalie Hell show in Invisible China, the truth is much more complicated and might be a serious cause for concern.

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Journal Articles

Correlates of Participation in Community-Based Interventions: Evidence from a Parenting Program in Rural China

Yiwei Qian, Yi Ming Zheng, Sarah-Eve Dill, Scott Rozelle
PLOS One, 2020 September 8, 2020
A growing body of literature has documented that community-based early childhood development (ECD) interventions can improve child developmental outcomes in vulnerable communities. One critical element of effective community-based programs is consistent program participation. However, little is known about participation in community-based ECD interventions or factors that may affect participation. This paper examines factors linked to program participation within a community-based ECD program serving 819 infants and their caregivers in 50 rural villages in northwestern China. The results find that more than half of families did not regularly attend the ECD program. Both village-level social ties within the program and proximity to the program significantly predict program participation. Increased distance from the program site is linked with decreased individual program participation, while the number of social ties is positively correlated with participation. The average program participation rates among a family’s social ties is also positively correlated with individual participation, indicating strong peer effects. Taken together, our findings suggest that attention should be given to promoting social interactions and reducing geographic barriers among households in order to raise participation in community-based ECD programs.
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Journal Articles

Safety of Eyeglasses Wear for Visual Acuity among Middle School Students in Northwestern Rural China: A Cluster-randomised Controlled Trial

Yue Ma, Xinwu Zhang, Haoyang Li, Xiaochen Ma, Dimitris Friesen, Scott Rozelle, Xiaopeng Pang, Ming Zhou, Nathan Congdon
BMJ Open Ophthalmology, 2020 September 5, 2020
Objective: To assess the effect of free eyeglasses provision on visual acuity among middle school students in northwestern rural China. Methods and analysis: Among 31 middle schools randomly selected from 47 middle schools in northwestern rural China, students were randomly allocated by school to one of two interventions: free eyeglasses (intervention group), and eyeglasses prescriptions given only to the parents (control group). The main outcome of this study is uncorrected visual acuity after 9 months, adjusted for baseline visual acuity. Results: Among 2095 students from 31 middle schools, 995 (47.5%) failed the visual acuity screening, 515 (51.8%, 15 schools) of which were randomly assigned to the intervention group, with the remaining 480 students (48.2%, 16 schools) assigned to the control group. Among these, a total of 910 students were followed up and analysed. Endline eyeglasses wear in the intervention group was 44%, and 36% in the control group. Endline visual acuity of students in the intervention group was significantly better than students in the control group, adjusting for other variables (0.045 LogMAR units, 95% CI 0.006 to 0.084, equivalent to 0.45 lines, p=0.027), and insignificantly better only for baseline visual acuity (difference of 0.008 LogMAR units, 95% CI −0.018 to 0.034, equivalent to 0.08 lines). Conclusion: We found no evidence that receiving free eyeglasses worsened visual acuity among middle school students in northwestern rural China.
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Journal Articles

Institutions, Implementation, and Program Effectiveness: Evidence from a Randomized Evaluation of Computer-Assisted Learning in Rural China

Di Mo, Yu Bai, Yaojiang Shi, Cody Abbey, LInxiu Zhang, Scott Rozelle, Prashant Loyalka
Journal of Development Economics, 2020 September 1, 2020
There is limited evidence on the degree to which differences in implementation among institutions matter for program effectiveness. To examine this question, we conducted an experiment in rural China in which public schools were randomly assigned to one of three treatments: a computer-assisted learning program (CAL) implemented by a government agency, the same program implemented by an NGO, and a pure control. Results show that compared to the pure control condition and unlike the NGO program, the government program did not improve student achievement. Analyzing impacts along the causal chain, we find that government officials were more likely to substitute CAL for regular instruction (contrary to protocol) and less likely to directly monitor program progress. Correlational analyses suggest that these differences in program implementation were responsible for the lack of impacts.
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Journal Articles

Conditional Cash Transfers, Uptake of Maternal and Child Health Services, and Health Outcomes in Western Rural China

Huan Zhou, Yuju Wu, Chengfang Liu, Chang Sun, Yaojiang Shi, Linxiu Zhang, Alexis Medina, Scott Rozelle
BMC Public Health, 2020 August 17, 2020
Background: Empirical evidence suggests that the uptake of maternal and child health (MCH) services is still low in poor rural areas of China. There is concern that this low uptake may detrimentally affect child health outcomes. Previous studies have not yet identified the exact nature of the impact that a conditional cash transfer (CCT) has on the uptake of MCH services and, ultimately, on child health outcomes. The objective of this study is to examine the relationship between CCT, uptake of MCH services, and health outcomes among children in poor rural areas of western China. Methods: We designated two different sets of villages and households that were used as comparisons against which outcomes of the treated households could be assessed. In 2014, we conducted a large-scale survey of 1522 households in 75 villages (including 25 treatment and 50 comparison) from nine nationally designated poverty counties in two provinces of China. In each village, 21 households were selected based on their eligibility status for the CCT program. Difference-in-difference analyses were used to assess the impact of CCT on outcomes in terms of both intention-to-treat (ITT) and average-treatment-effects-on-the-treated (ATT). Results: Overall, the uptake of MCH services in the sample households were low, especially in terms of postpartum care visits, early breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding, and physical examination of the baby. The uptake of the seven types of MCH services in the CCT treatment villages were significantly higher than that in the comparison villages. The results from both the ITT and ATT analyses showed that the CCT program had a positive, although small, impact on the uptake of MCH services and the knowledge of mothers of MCH health issues. Nonetheless, the CCT program had no noticeable effect on child health outcomes. Conclusions: The CCT program generated modest improvements in the uptake of MCH services and mothers’ knowledge of MCH services in poor rural areas of Western China. These improvements, however, did not translate into substantial improvements in child health outcomes for two potential reasons: poor CCT implementation and the low quality of rural health facilities.
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Working Papers

The Impact of Computer Assisted Learning on Rural Taiwanese Children: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment

Yue Ma, Cody Abbey, Derek Hu, Oliver Lee, Weiting Hung, Xinwu Zhang, Chiayuan Chang, Chyi-In Wu, Scott Rozelle
2020 August 10, 2020
The effectiveness of educational technology (EdTech) in improving the outcomes of poor, marginalized students has primarily been documented by studies conducted in developing countries; however, relevant research involving randomized studies in developed country contexts is relatively scarce. The objective of the current study is to examine whether an in-school computer assisted learning (CAL) intervention can improve the math performance (the primary outcome) and academic attitudes (secondary outcomes) of rural students in Taiwan, including a marginalized subgroup of rural students called Xinzhumin. We also seek to identify which factors are associated with the effectiveness of the intervention. In order to achieve this, we conducted a randomized control trial involving 1,840 sixth-grade students at 95 schools in four relatively poor counties and municipalities of Taiwan during the spring semester of 2019. According to the ITT analysis, the O-CAL intervention had no significant ITT impacts on the primary outcome of student math performance as well as on most secondary outcomes of the overall treatment group (who on average used the software for only about one quarter of the protocol’s minimum required time of 30 minutes per week, indicating that compliance was low). However, the LATE analysis revealed significant improvements in the math performance of the 30% most active students in the treatment group (who used the software for about two thirds of the minimum required time). Effect sizes of active users overall (0.16 SD-0.22 SD) increased in accordance with increases in usage and were larger for active Xinzhumin users specifically (0.21 SD-0.35 SD). A wide range of student-level and (in particular) teacher-level characteristics were associated with the low compliance to the intervention, which are findings that may help inform educational policymakers and administrators of the potential challenges of introducing school-based interventions that depend heavily on teacher adoption and integration.  
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Working Papers

Education and EdTech during COVID-19: Evidence from a Large-Scale Survey during School Closures in China

Guirong Li, Xinwu Zhang, Delei Liu, Hao Xue, Derek Hu, Oliver Lee, Chris Rilling, Yue Ma, Cody Abbey, Robert Fairlie, Prashant Loyalka, Scott Rozelle
2020 August 10, 2020
In response to the COVID-19 epidemic, many education systems have relied on distance learning and educational technologies to an unprecedented degree. However, rigorous empirical research on the impacts on learning under these conditions is still scarce. We present the first large-scale, quantitative evidence detailing how school closures affected education in China. The data set includes households and teachers of 4,360 rural and urban primary school students. We find that although the majority of students engaged in distance education, many households encountered difficulties including barriers to learning (such as access to appropriate digital devices and study spaces), curricular delays, and costs to parents equivalent to about two months of income. We also find significant disparities across rural and urban households.
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