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Missing in Action: Teacher and Health Worker Absence in Developing Countries

Title: Missing in Action: Teacher and Health Worker Absence in Developing Countries
Author: Nazmul Chaudhury, Jeffrey Hammer, Michael Kremer,
Karthik Muralidharan, and F. Halsey Rogers
Pub. Date: May 19, 2005
Full Text: Adobe Acrobat (PDF) [385 KB]

Journal of Economic Perspectives (forthcoming Fall 2005)

In this paper, we report results from surveys in which enumerators made unannounced visits to primary schools and health clinics in Bangladesh, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Peru, and Uganda and recorded whether they found teachers and health workers in the facilities. Averaging across the countries, about 19 percent of teachers and 35 percent of health workers were absent. Moreover, many of those who were present were not actually working when the enumerators arrived.   We find that absence rates are generally higher in poorer regions:  doubling a region’s per capita income reduces the predicted absence rate for teachers by 8 percentage points. 


Absence is typically fairly widespread, rather than being concentrated on a small number of "ghost" workers.   Higher-ranking and more powerful providers, such as headmasters and doctors, are absent more often than lower-ranking ones. Men are absent more often than women.  Teachers from the local area are absent less often. There is little evidence that pay strongly affects absence in the range where we have data; by contrast, we do find evidence suggesting a role for the quality of infrastructure. Contract teachers, who are not subject to civil service protection and earn a fraction of what civil service teachers earn, do not have lower absence. In India, absence rates among teachers in rural private schools and in locally managed schools are also high, although private school teachers have lower absence than public teachers in the same village. 

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