Youth unemployment is one of the most pressing social and economic problems facing less developed countries. Kenya, like many African countries, suffers from high youth unemployment. Yet little is known about how best to improve human capital and job prospects for young adults not on the academic schooling track in less developed countries. Vocational education is one promising avenue for addressing the problem. This project will evaluate impacts of a vocational education voucher program among Kenyan youth, using a randomized evaluation design together with an innovative longitudinal (panel) dataset, the Kenya Life Panel Survey (KLPS). In particular, the project will explore whether subsidized vocational training can enable the unemployed and those with little formal schooling to move into new and higher-paying occupations, improving their living standards, health and well-being. The results of this study will inform governments, policymakers and donors on the economic and health impacts of vocational education, allowing them to improve the effectiveness of such programs in Africa. A subset of the study sample benefited from an earlier school health intervention, further allowing us to estimate the interaction of youth health and education investments on life outcomes. Finally, the unusual panel dataset, which tracks respondents wherever they move within East Africa, will provide new insights into how human capital investments affect out-migration decisions and remittances back to the sending area, allowing estimation of the """"""""returns"""""""" to public education and health investments from the perspective of a local government authority. The prospective project design helps overcome the key methodological problem of establishing the direction of causality between educational attainment and health, labor market and other life outcomes, which makes most existing empirical studies on this topic difficult to interpret. This research design, large sample size, and interdisciplinary approach will make the results particularly useful across the social sciences and health sciences. Furthermore, the research will utilize the uniquely detailed background information for individuals in the KLPS sample to pin down the effectiveness of vocational training for groups of youths with specific and well-defined characteristics, a crucial piece of evidence for policymakers designing vocational training programs that almost always target subsets of the youth population. For example, a subset of the youths in the sample are in better health because they were part of a randomly chosen group of KLPS children that received deworming medicine in primary school. Higher returns to subsequent education may be a substantial, though usually unexplored, benefit of child health interventions in poor countries. The unique situation of this project - combining a randomized health intervention with a subsequent randomized education intervention - will provide some of the first rigorous evidence on this important issue.
The design of this study permits us to examine the health and labor market impacts of educational attainment, using a randomized vocational education intervention among over 2,150 Kenyan youth. The prospective project design helps overcome the key methodological problem of establishing the direction of causality between educational attainment and health and labor market outcomes, which makes most existing empirical studies on this topic difficult to interpret. A subset of the study sample also benefited from an earlier school health intervention, allowing us to estimate the interaction of youth health and education investments on life outcomes.