Essays on Development in Sub-Saharan African Countries

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Virginia Tech

As one of the fastest growing regions in the world, crop production and education remain two of the most important topics for the development of sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries. This dissertation is composed of three chapters that investigate the economic returns to education (Chapter 1 and 2) and assess the policy influence on fertilizer usage (Chapter 3) in two SSA countries, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia.

Chapter 1 investigates the casual impact of improved educational attainment on household well-being as reflected by consumption level in Zimbabwe. We use the age-specific exposure to the 1980 education reform as the instrument for the household head educational attainment to identify the economic returns to education. We find that an extra year of household head schooling leads to an 8% increase in per capita household consumption on average when using the multiple rounds of the Income, Consumption and Expenditure Survey (ICES). The impact of enhanced education on household consumption is larger for rural and female-headed households and we also find some evidence that head educational attainment could affect consumption patterns, where additional schooling leads to slightly lower consumption share in food and higher share in non-durable goods.

Chapter 2 extends this topic by utilizing a pseudo panel data constructed with multiple waves of repeated cross-sectional data, which allows us to use fixed-effect and other panel data methods to address the problem of unobserved "ability" bias. For pseudo panel, we use age, gender and some other time-persistent criterions to define the cohorts and replace the individual observations with the intra-cohort means. Individual time-invariant factors that influencing both education and consumption are transformed into cohort time-invariant factors, within transformation on the pseudo panel would eliminate such factors leads to achieve unbiased and consistent estimates on the returns to education. We find on average there is a 14% increase in monthly household per capita consumption for each one more year of education for the household head. By further disaggregating our population, we find female-headed households exhibit a return to education of around 15.3%, much higher than its corresponding OLS/IV estimates. On the other hand, we fail to detect such large discrepancy for the male-headed households, suggesting that the overall downward bias of OLS/IV estimates mostly come from female-headed households. Facing significant higher opportunity cost, Zimbabwean females are much less likely to furthering their education when compared to males with similar unobserved ability level which can be one of the major underlying reasons.

Chapter 3 investigates the potential effect of fertilizer promotion polices on crop acreage and input intensities in Ethiopia. We use a fully calibrated multi-input and -output model based on the principle of positive mathematical programming (PMP) to assess the policy impact in four major agricultural states in the country. I analyze two policies designed to promote fertilizer use, namely fertilizer import expansion and a universal subsidy program. The results from the simulation model suggest that local farmers actively respond to these promotion policies by adjusting crop acreage and investing more in fertilizer input. However, when the availability of fertilizer in one region is fixed and local farmers face a binding constraint, the behavior responses to the subsidy program alone would be limited.

Returns to Education, Zimbabwe, Education Reform, Pseudo Panel, Fertilizer Promotion, Ethiopia, Positive Mathematical Programming