The International Growth Center currently funds a project by Professor Nishith Prakash, called “Cycling to School: Increasing High School Girl’s Enrollment in Bihar.”  The aim of this project is to estimate the impact of “Mukhyamantri Balika Cycle Yojna,” policy experiment by the government of Bihar on girls’ educational outcomes.  There are very few empirical studies in India on the impact of a conditional cash transfer on school participation.  This project will measure the impact of the program on enrollment, drop-out, attendance, and school progression of adolescent girls.  The project has been cited in the media, including Times of India, and the Hindustan Time. Below is a write-up from the IGC.

The “Mukhyamantri Balika Cycle Yojna” (Chief Minister’s Bicycle Program for secondary school girls) has been one of the flagship programs of the Govt. of Bihar in the past 5 years to improve secondary school enrollment among girls. The objective of this research work is to estimate the impact of this policy experiment on girl’s educational outcomes.

Improving female education directly contributes to inclusive growth through both (a) the direct channel of improved human capital of female participants in the labour force, and (b) the indirect channel of improved human capital of the next generation (several studies have shown high-levels of inter-generational transmission of human capital from mothers to children). It would also contribute to “inclusive” growth by allowing traditionally disadvantaged groups (women) to participate more directly in the growth of the Indian economy through increased employment opportunities, by improving their intra-household bargaining position, and by providing them the ‘capabilities’ (in Amartya Sen’s terminology) to live more meaningful lives in an increasingly complex world where the returns to education appear to be increasing.

Hence, a fundamental policy question in most developing countries (including India) is to identify cost-effective and scalable policies that improve school attainment of girls (an objective that addresses multiple Millennium Development Goals). While hundreds of schemes are launched as pilots and then discarded when the concerned officer (or government) changes, the bicycle program is one that has caught the imagination of voters as well as political leaders and its high visibility has led to heightened interest in replicating the policy across India.

So far the Government of Bihar has already spent Rs. 174.36 crores on this program in the past 3 years, but there is no reliable estimate of the impact of the program on key outcome variables or any attempt to estimate a social rate of return on this investment. A careful impact evaluation of the bicycle program is therefore a piece of analytical work that can directly feed into the policy discussions in Bihar and across India on whether programs like the “bicycle program” should be scaled up. Specifically, in this project we will measure the impact of the program on enrollment, drop-out, attendance, and school progression of adolescent girls.

Watch the video IGC made on the project.

Read Greg Makiw’s blog about this project here. Greg is a Professor of Economics at Harvard University.