04 January 2010

Tampons for development?

A new paper by Emily Oster and Rebecca Thornton sheds some doubt on the importance of menstruation as a barrier to girl's schooling.
Policy-makers have cited menstruation and lack of sanitary products as barriers to girls' schooling. We evaluate these claims using a randomized evaluation of sanitary products provision to girls in Nepal. We report two findings. First, menstruation has a very small impact on school attendance: we estimate the impact at 0.4 days in a 180 day school year. Second, improved sanitary technology has no eff ect on reducing this gap: treatment girls were no less likely to miss school during their period. Claims that menstruation is a barrier to schooling are overstated and modern sanitary products are unlikely to a ffect educational attainment.
As a nerdish aside, this is a great lesson in the importance of working out, and stating upfront, the SIZE OF THE EFFECT. Rather than leaping on a statistically significant relationship and drawing conclusions from there, it is really simple but perhaps not done often enough to consider just how big the effect is in real terms, and in this case draw the opposite conclusion that although an effect is statistically significant it is also tiny, and therefore economically insignificant.

Here is Emily at TED challenging what you think you knew about HIV/AIDS.

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