Essays in the Economics of Human Capital Accumulation

Anjali Chandra, Fordham University


A nationwide survey in 2019 found that 56 percent of children enrolled in grades 2-5 in government schools in India could not read a simple paragraph in their native language. This is commonly referred to as the “learning crisis” in developing countries, where there is a significant gap between schooling and learning. There are many reasons for such low levels of learning – high teacher absenteeism, poor health, limited intergenerational mobility, and limited returns from improved learning. In the first two chapters of my dissertation, I specifically examine two possible reasons for this learning crisis in India – supply-side constraints in education and low intergenerational mobility. In Chapter 1, I show that increases in demand for schooling induced by social welfare programs will fail to improve children’s learning unless accompanied by complementary investments in school governance and teacher accountability. My findings highlight the importance of supply-side changes, such as reducing teacher absenteeism, in bridging the gap between schooling and learning in India. In Chapter 2, I study intergenerational mobility in rural India to estimate the extent to which parental education determines their children’s learning. My findings show high intergenerational mobility when I use educational attainment as a measure of economic status and low intergenerational mobility when I use mother’s and child’s learning ability as a measure of economic status. These results highlight limited mobility as another potential reason for explaining India’s declining educational productivity. In Chapter 3, I move away from factors that hinder human capital accumulation and instead study how human capital accumulated in primary school can impact later-life marriage and fertility outcomes for adults in Indonesia. I provide causal evidence that staying longer in primary school raises the age at first marriage later in life. These findings highlight that spending more time in school can potentially improve the pervasive problem of early marriage in developing countries. Overall, my dissertation contributes to education research in the economics literature focusing on two large developing countries, India and Indonesia.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Chandra, Anjali, "Essays in the Economics of Human Capital Accumulation" (2023). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI30635446.