My summer research project examined Mexico’s Prospera Program. Prospera is a conditional cash transfer program and the main component aims to encourage consistent school enrollment. My research focused on access to education and school choice.
Through my PURM research experience, I have learned R Statistical Software. Using R’s google maps package, I have figured out how to plot the coordinates of schools on the background of a map, and then change the color, size, and shape of the points, in order to portray school characteristics, including average school Math and Spanish test scores, poverty level, Prospera ratio, school type, and school size. These maps have enabled me to illustrate the differences in demographics across Mexico’s municipalities, including the variation across rural and urban areas.
In order to create a model for predicting dropout rates, a binary outcome, I learned how to write a probit model in R. I built a probit model, which estimates a student’s probability of dropping out of school between grades 6 and 7 conditional on knowing specific information which includes Prospera status, parent education level, Math and Spanish test scores, type of grade 6 school attended, and distance to the nearest grade 7 school. I also created a similar model, predicting the probability of a student attending a private grade 7 school, based on similar characteristics.
Additionally, I have studied data relating to school choice, attempting to understand the number of school choices students have when transitioning from grade 6 (primary school) to grade 7 (secondary school). This research includes identifying the number of grade 6 schools within a three-kilometer radius of each student’s grade 7 school, as well as their type of school, and how these numbers differ between different states and regions in Mexico. I plan to use this information to understand the impact of school access on school enrollment and how families decide which secondary school (if any) to send their child.
Participating in my PURM research project has provided me with the opportunity to take part in academic research in a professional setting, introducing me to the processes and complexities that go into research, specifically in the field of economics. I have not only improved my technical skills in terms of academic writing and statistical software, but this experience has also reinforced my interest and my plan to major in economics.