Theses Doctoral

Essays on Learning Outcomes and Education in Mexico

Garcia Moreno, Vicente

The objective of this dissertation is to present empirical evidence and analysis of three key issues in the Mexican education system: 1) school accountability, as reflected in a particular state innovation pursued by the state of Colima in 2009 to identify and address the problems of low-performing schools, 2) age delay and the effects of a national reform introduced in 2006-2007 that modified the first grade entry-age across all Mexican states, and 3) the educational disadvantages of indigenous peoples in México and their consequences, as determined from recent data which allows identification of this population.
First, the dissertation evaluates the impact of a targeted state-sponsored intervention program known as Programa de Atención Específica para la Mejora del Logro Educativo (PAE) designed to provide low-performing schools with remedial resources in Colima, México. The research analyzes the effect of this compensatory program in terms of standardized test scores among 108 participating schools having the lowest learning outcomes in 2009. The results of this "natural experiment" confirm that intervention in the form of the PAE program had a positive impact on average test scores in poorly performing Colima schools. By exploiting PAE's eligibility rules, a regression discontinuity method is used to estimate the impact on subsequent learning outcomes. Schools that participated in the program and a valid comparison group were followed for three years in order to compare their performance. The fact that the program was halted after only one year meant that the only realized interventions were those related to the program's preparation, which revolved around notifying schools as low-performing, identifying a school's main academic problems and devising a development plan to address those challenges. Yet, after only one year, test scores in PAE schools increased by 0.13 standard deviations vis-à-vis non-PAE schools and in fact, after three years, differences between the two groups of schools were no longer significant.
Second, the dissertation explores the impact of exogenous variation in the age at which students enter school on education outcomes. Prior to the 2006-2007 school year, the cut-off day for school entry in Mexico had been September 1st. Since then, however, pupils aged 6 by as late as December 31 could start public school. Data related to this cut-off transition are reviewed and analyzed using a regression discontinuity method so as to estimate the causal effect of delayed school enrollment on math test scores. A two-stage least square (TSLS) estimator is used wherein the source of identification is the variation in 1st grade entry ages which resulted solely from differences in dates of birth. The results indicate that older students scored higher than younger students. The reform impacted the discrepancy between those regulated by the new cut-off dates and those regulated by the old cut-off date(s) by 0.30 s.d. (comparing the 1998-1999 cohort which entered school before the reform with the 2002-2003 cohort, which entered afterwards). The results also suggest age effects on education outcomes that are stronger for recent generations than for generations entering first grade prior to the reform. Because math scores have increased by 0.95 s.d. since the first administration of ENLACE in 2006, this result suggests that, at a minimum, moving the cut-off date by four months to December 31 did not have an adverse effect on mean math test scores.
Finally, a sobering analysis of the educational outcomes of indigenous populations is conducted using data from Encuesta Nacional Ingresos y Gastos de los Hogares, ENIGH) which, for the first time in 2008 and then 2010 identified indigenous populations.
The research finds that although the percentage of families in extreme poverty residing in municipalities where indigenous populations are concentrated dropped between 1992 and 2010, the gap in poverty rates between the municipalities where indigenous people concentrate and others remains huge, with extreme poverty in the former equal to 51.9% in 2010 and in the latter 16.9%. Because rates of return to education are estimated in this dissertation to be high in Mexico (around 10%, including those for indigenous populations), education is found to be essential in reducing the gulf in poverty levels by ethnicity. But the study shows that gaps in educational outcomes between indigenous and non-indigenous populations remain wide, whether in terms of average educational attainment, participation in Kindergarten, the percentage of students who are overage, and the average student achievement as measured by a variety of tests.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Economics and Education
Thesis Advisors
Tsang, Mun C.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014