Development that Works
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    This blog highlights effective ideas in the fight against poverty and exclusion, and analyzes the impact of development projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Vacations



    A year ago I explained 5 reasons why you should take a long vacation. Here is one very big one why your kids should not.


    Recently, Matthew Yglesias wrote on why vacations are evil. Much of his piece was based on a RAND literature review on the impact of vacations on children. Summer learning loss is approximately one month of instruction and this loss is particularly acute for children from lower income families.

    While their higher-income peers, on average, post gains in reading, low-income students show losses at the end of the summer. By ninth grade, “two-thirds of the reading achievement gap [between richer and poorer] could be attributed to summer learning loss in the first five years of schooling”.

    This effect is not the exclusive domain of developed economies. A recent paper for Colombia shows that vacation breaks negatively affect poorer students, while having a positive impact on wealthier ones.

    This paper uses exogenous variation generated by the change in the calendar of public schools in the city of Cali (Colombia), during the 2008-2010 period, to estimate the impact of out-of-school days on academic performance. The results suggest that students who faced an increase in school breaks while they were in 10th and 11th grades had language scores 0.22 standard deviations lower.

    For the same group of students, an impact was also found on the distribution of mathematics scores and of average score of all areas. Specifically, the effect was negative and statistically significant for students in the 25th percentile of the distribution, while it was zero or even positive for those in the 75th percentile.

    What this study shows is that it matters, a lot, how children spend their vacation time. A poor student has a poorer free time than the rest.

    Having said that this blog will take a summer break.

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