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Cody Abbey
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
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

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
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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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
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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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
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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Journal Articles

Depressive Symptoms and the Link with Academic Performance among Rural Taiwanese Children

Yujuan Gao, Derek Hu, Evan Peng, Cody Abbey, Yue Ma, Chyi-In Wu, Chia-Yuan Chang, Wei-Ting Hung, Scott Rozelle
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , 2020
Previous studies reflect a high prevalence of depressive symptoms among Taiwanese adolescents (ages 13–18), but there is an absence of literature related to the risk of depression of children in Taiwan (ages 6–12), particularly among potentially vulnerable subgroups. To provide insight into the distribution of depressive symptoms among children in rural Taiwan and measure the correlation between academic performance, we conducted a survey of 1655 randomly selected fourth and fifth-grade students at 92 sample schools in four relatively low-income counties or municipalities. Using the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D) we assessed the prevalence of depressive symptoms in this sample, in addition to collecting other data, such as performance on a standardized math test as well as information on a number of individual and household characteristics. We demonstrate that the share of children with clinically significant symptoms is high: 38% of the students were at risk of general depression (depression score ≥ 16) and 8% of the students were at risk of major depression (depression score > 28). The results of the multivariate regression and heterogeneous analysis suggest that poor academic performance is closely associated with a high prevalence of depressive symptoms. Among low-performing students, certain groups were disproportionately affected, including girls and students whose parents have migrated away for work. Results also suggest that, overall, students who had a parent who was an immigrant from another country were at greater risk of depression. These findings highlight the need for greater resource allocation toward mental health services for elementary school students in rural Taiwan, particularly for at-risk groups. 
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Journal Articles

Academic Achievement and Mental Health of Left-behind Children in Rural China

Lei Wang, Yaojia Zheng, Guirong Li, Yanyan Li, Zhenni Fang, Cody Abbey, Scott Rozelle
China Agricultural Economic Review , 2019
Purpose – China’s rapid pace of urbanization has resulted in millions of rural residents migrating from rural areas to urban areas for better job opportunities. Due to economic pressures and the nature of China’s demographic policies, many of these migrants have been forced to leave their children with relatives – typically paternal grandparents – at home in the countryside. Thus, while income for most migrant families has risen, a major unintended consequence of this labor movement has been the emergence of a potentially vulnerable sub-population of left-behind children (LBCs). The purpose of this paper is to examine the impacts of parental migration on both the academic performance and mental health of LBCs. Design/methodology/approach – Longitudinal data were drawn from three waves of a panel survey that . followed the same students and their families – including their migration behavior (i.e. whether both parents, one parent, no parent migrated) – between 2015 and 2016. The survey covers more than 33,000 students in one province of central China. The authors apply a student fixed-effects model that controls for both observable and unobservable confounding variables to explicate the causal effects of parental migration on the academic and mental health outcomes for LBC. The authors also employ these methods to test whether these effects differ by the type of migration or by gender of the child.
Findings – The authors found no overall impact of parental migration on either academic performance or mental health of LBCs, regardless of the type of migration behavior. The authors did find, however, that when the authors examined heterogeneous effects by gender (which was possible due to the large sample size), parental migration resulted in significantly higher anxiety levels for left-behind girls. The results suggest that parental migration affects left-behind boys and girls differently and that policymakers should take a more tailored approach to addressing the problems faced by LBCs.
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Working Papers

EdTech for Equity in China: Can Technology Improve Teaching for Millions of Rural Students?

Cody Abbey, Yue Ma, Guirong Li, Matthew Boswell, Claire Cheng, Robert Fairlie, Oliver Lee, Prashant Loyalka, Andrew Mi, Evan Peng, Scott Rozelle, Adrian Sun, Andy Zeng, Jenny Zhao
2019

Previous literature suggests subpar teaching is a primary reason why rural Chinese students lag behind academically. We initiate an investigation into the potential of educational technology (EdTech) to increase teaching quality in rural China. First, we discuss why conventional approaches of improving teaching in remote schools are infeasible in China’s context, referring to past research. We then explore the capacity of technology-assisted instruction to improve academic performance by examining previous empirical analyses. Third, we show that China is not limited by the resource constraints of other developing countries due to substantial policy support and a thriving EdTech industry. Finally, we identify potential implementation-related challenges based on the results of a preliminary qualitative survey of pilots of EdTech interventions. With this paper, we lay the foundation for a long-term research investigation into whether EdTech can narrow China’s education gap.

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Journal Articles

Concurrent Validity of the Ages and Stages Questionnaire and the Bayley Scales of Infant Development III in China

Ai Yue, Qi Jiang, Biaoyue Wang, Cody Abbey, Alexis Medina, Yaojiang Shi, Scott Rozelle
PLoS ONE , 2019

Choosing a valid and feasible method to measure child developmental outcomes is key to addressing developmental delays, which have been shown to be associated with high levels of unemployment, participation in crime, and teen pregnancies. However, measuring early childhood development (ECD) with multi-dimensional diagnostic tests such as the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development III (Bayley-III) can be time-consuming and expensive; therefore, parental screening tools such as the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ-3) are frequently an alternative measure of early childhood development in largescale research. The ASQ is also becoming more frequently used as the first step to identify children at risk for developmental delays before conducting a diagnostic test to confirm. However, the effectiveness of the ASQ-3 is uncertain. In this study, we evaluate the accuracy of the ASQ-3 as a screening measure for children at risk of developmental delay in rural China by age group. To do so, we administered the Bayley-III, widely considered to be the “gold standard” of ECD diagnostic tests, to a sample of 1,831 five to twenty-four monthold children and also administered the ASQ-3 to their caregivers. We then compared the outcomes of the ASQ-3 test to those of the Bayley-III. We find that the ASQ-3 was significantly though weakly correlated with the Bayley-III and that the strength of this correlation increased with child age and was stronger when the mother was the primary caregiver (as compared to the grandmother). We also find that the sensitivity and specificity of ASQ-3 ranged widely. The overall findings suggest that the ASQ-3 may not be a very accurate screening tool for identifying developmentally delayed children, especially for children under 13 months of age or children whose primary caregiver is not the mother.

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Journal Articles

Past Successes and Future Challenges in Rural China’s Human Capital

Yu Bai, Siqi Zhang, Lei Wang, Ruirui Dang, Cody Abbey, Scott Rozelle
Journal of Contemporary China , 2019

This paper describes the current level of human capital in China and seeks to identify a number of education-related challenges that may slow down the nation’s economy from transitioning to high-income status. Relying on recent census-based data from OECD for the rest of the world and using data from the 2015 Micro-Census for China, the authors show that the low levels of education of China’s labour force is really a problem that has its roots in the past (in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s). In recent years (since 2000), China has been investing heavily in education as shown by the increasing the share of youth, including rural youth, attending high school. Despite this recent effort to raise the nation’s human capital, the education system still faces several challenges in trying to provide high-quality education for all youth. First, the government must figure out a way to overcome the relatively low rates of participation in high school by rural students. Second, there is concern that many vocational schools, especially those in rural areas, cannot deliver quality education. Finally, the paper will show that many rural students may be unprepared due to poor early childhood development outcomes.

 

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Journal Articles

Are Infant/Toddler Developmental Delays a Problem Across Rural China?

Lei Wang, Wilson Liang, Cordelia Yu, Mengjie Li, Siqi Zhang, Yonglei Sun, Qingrui Ma, Laura Johnsson, Cody Abbey, Renfu Luo, Ai Yue, Yu Bai, Scott Rozelle
Journal of Comparative Economics , 2019

Using the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development-III (BSID-III), we examine the rates of developmental delays among children aged 0–3 years in four major subpopulations of rural China, which, altogether, account for 69% of China's rural children and 49% of children nationwide. The results indicate that 85% of the 3,353 rural children in our sample suffer from at least one kind of developmental delay. Specifically, 49% of the children have cognitive delays, 52% have language delays, 53% have social emotional delays, and 30% have motor delays. The results suggest that these high rates are due to two main factors in the parenting environment. The first is micronutrient deficiencies, which are reflected in a high prevalence of anemia (42%). The second is an absence of interactive parenting inputs, such as storytelling, reading, singing, and playing. Although we find these inputs to be significantly and positively associated with better developmental outcomes, only a small share of caregivers engage in them. With this large and broad sample, we show that, if China hopes to build up enough human capital to transition to a high-income economy, early childhood development in rural areas urgently requires more attention. 

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Journal Articles

Breastfeeding and the Risk of Illness among Young Children in Rural China

Shanshan Li, Ai Yue, Cody Abbey, Alexis Medina, Yaojiang Shi
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , 2019

Poor rural areas in China exhibit the country’s highest rates of child mortality, often stemming from preventable health conditions such as diarrhea and respiratory infection. In this study, we investigate the association between breastfeeding and disease among children aged 6–24 months in poor rural counties in China. To do this, we conducted a longitudinal, quantitative analysis of socioeconomic demographics, health outcomes, and breastfeeding practices for 1802 child–caregiver dyads across 11 nationally designated poverty counties in southern Shaanxi Province in 2013–2014. We found low rates of continued breastfeeding that decreased as children developed: from 58.2% at 6–12 months, to 21.6% at 12–18 months, and finally to 5.2% at 18–24 months. These suboptimal rates are lower than all but one other country in the Asia-Pacific region. We further found that only 18.3% of children 6–12 months old met the World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended threshold for minimum dietary diversity, defined as consuming four or more of seven specific food groups. Breastfeeding was strongly associated with lower rates of both diarrhea and cough in bivariate and multivariate analyses. As the first analysis to use longitudinal data to examine the relationship between continued breastfeeding and child illness in China, our study confirms the need for programmatic interventions that promote continued breastfeeding in order to improve toddler health in the region.

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Journal Articles

Do Resources Matter? Effects of an In-Class Library Project on Student Independent Reading Habits in Primary Schools in Rural China

Hongmei Yi, Di Mo, Huan Wang, Qiufeng Gao, Yaojiang Shi, Paiou Wu, Cody Abbey, Scott Rozelle
Reading Research Quarterly , 2018

It is commonly believed that reading challenges should be addressed early to reduce the likelihood that developmental delays will impact students over the long term. However, students in developing countries often have limited access to reading resources. In this study, the authors used a randomized controlled trial of 11,083 fourth‐ and fifth‐grade students in 120 primary schools in rural China to examine the causal effect of an in‐class library program on student reading outcomes and academic achievement in schools with poor reading resources over an eight‐month period. An in‐class library was installed in each of the selected classes in the 40 treatment schools. The authors found that the program significantly improved student affinity toward reading and student reading habits, and in these regards, it narrowed the gap between male and female students, between low‐ and high‐performing students, and between left‐behind children and children living with parents. However, the authors found no overall effect of the program on reading and academic achievement and a negative effect on student confidence in reading. There was also no effect on student, teacher, and primary caregiver perceptions toward the effect of independent reading on academic achievement, nor any effect on whether teachers and primary caregivers provided reading instructions to students. The authors propose three possible explanations for these findings: a lack of reading instruction from teachers and caregivers, a lack of reading materials specifically tailored to local needs and interests, and the relatively short duration of the intervention.

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Journal Articles

Effect of Caregiver's mental Health on Early Childhood Development across Different Rural Communities in China

Siqi Zhang, Ruirui Dang, Ning Yang, Lei Wang, Cody Abbey, Scott Rozelle
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , 2018

Previous research has found that there are high rates of developmental delays among infants and toddlers in rural areas of China. Caregiver mental health problems might be one significant predictor of developmental delays among infants and toddlers, as has been found in other areas of the world. One way that the mental health of caregivers could affect early childhood development is through its effect on parenting practices. In this study, we used data from four major subpopulations of rural China to measure the correlation of caregiver mental health problems with the developmental outcomes of infants and toddlers. To do so, the study used the Bayley Scales of Infant Development III (BSID III) to examine the rates of developmental delays among 2514 rural infants/toddlers aged 6–30 months old. The results of the testing demonstrate that 48% of the sample’s infants/toddlers have cognitive delays; 52% have language delays; 53% have social-emotional delays; and 30% have motor delays. The data collection team also assessed caregiver mental health by using the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS-21) questionnaire. According to the findings, 39% of caregivers in the sample have symptoms of at least one kind of mental health problem (depression, anxiety, or stress). We also found that most caregivers do not engage in positive parenting practices, while a significant share of caregivers engage in negative parenting practices. The statistical analysis found that showing signs of mental health problems is significantly and negatively associated with infant/toddler developmental outcomes. The study also found that caregivers who show signs of mental health problems are significantly less likely to engage in interactive parenting practices. The study confirms that society needs to pay more attention to caregiver mental health problems in order to improve infant/toddler developmental outcomes in rural China and increase human capital accumulation in China as a whole.

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Journal Articles

Human Capital and the Middle Income Trap: How Many of China's Youth Are Going to High School?

Lei Wang, Mengjie Li, Cody Abbey, Scott Rozelle
The Developing Economies , 2018
The objective of this paper is to assess the nature of China’s human capital. To achieve our objective, we both measure the share of the labor force that has attained upper secondary schooling levels (high school) as well as examine recent trends of 15–17 year olds who are attending high school. Using two sets of national representative data, we are able to show that, while the human capital of China’s labor force is still low (30%), between 2005 and 2015 the share of rural youth who attended high school rose sharply. According to Ministry of Education–reported statistics, in 2015 87% of 15–17 year olds were attending high school, up from around 50% in 2005. Given the recent pronouncements of the government to make high school universal by 2020, the challenges for the education system are to increase the attendance of rural as well as vocational education and training students.
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