Protective Mothers: Maternal Education and Child Learning After the 2005 Pakistan Earthquake

PSSP Seminar Series presents

Protective Mothers:

Maternal Education and Child Learning After the 2005 Pakistan Earthquake 

Professor of Economics, Pomona College


A discussion with

Tahir Andrabi

Professor of Economics
Department of Economics, Pomona College

Monday, 29 April 2013
12:30pm – 1:30pm

4B Conference Room
International Food Policy Research Institute
2033 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006-1002 USA

Register for the talk



Paper co-authored with Jishnu Das (World Bank) and Ben Daniels (LSE)

Preliminary Draft; Do not Cite

If more educated parents can better protect their kids from large adverse shocks in terms of their education, the gap in education in the younger generation could become larger than the generation of their parents. We explore this question in the context of the 7.6 magnitude earthquake-- a force equivalent to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake--that struck northern Pakistan in October 2005. We argue that the 2005 earthquake was an interesting natural experiment as the distance of households from the activated  fault-line was uncorrelated to their pre-earthquake observed (and unobserved) characteristics. The activated fault-line--the Himalayan Frontal Thrust Fault--was only one of many active fault-lines present in the area. In comparing households living farther from the activated fault-line to those close to it, we would be therefore estimating a causal effect of the severity of the earthquake.

We find in a household survey four years after the earthquake that consumption, asset ownership and quality of housing were no worse for households closer to the fault-line.  Moreover, enrollment of children also had recovered.  In contrast test scores in Urdu, English and Math,  present a grim. We observe an achievement deficit equivalent to about one-third of a standard deviation in earthquake affected children relative to those located farther from the fault-line. A child living 10 kms away from the fault-line had test scores lower by 0.5 standard deviations than one living 40 kms away.  This gap represents the equivalent of some two years of schooling. The interaction effect of maternal education with distance from the fault line on test scores is large and significant. Educated mothers wipe out about half of the negative effect of being closer to the fault-line on their children's test scores. The protective differential effect of educated mothers is coming entirely for the group that was 5-11 years at the time of the earthquake and thus eligible to be in school at that time and not those who were 3-4 years old at the time of the earthquake. School based testing shows that learning levels in schools that were destroyed is considerably lower today, even after village fixed effects.

About the Speaker:

Tahir Andrabi is Professor of Economics at Pomona College. He has been a visiting scholar at MIT, a research associate at LSE and a consultant for the World Bank. He was a member of the tax and macroeconomic committees of the economic advisory board of the government of Pakistan in 1999-2000. He is a co-founder of the Center for Economic Research, Pakistan ( in Lahore, Pakistan.

He is the principal investigator on the four year longitudinal study ( on quality of primary education in rural Punjab funded by the World bank and the National Science Foundation . He is also the PI on a National Academy of Sciences/Higher Education Commission, Pakistan grant on evaluating the recovery from the 2005 northern Pakistan earthquake. (See here, here and here for news coverage of the latest research on the earthquake.)

He has published extensively in major economics and education journals. In 2007, his work on religious education in Pakistan received the George Bereday Award for the best paper published in Comparative Education Review in 2006 from the Comparative and International Education Society. He co-founded the website ( to help coordinate relief in the aftermath of the October 2005 earthquake. The website was awarded the Stockholm Challenge Award (2006) for the best ICT project in the public administration category. His research has been covered by The Financial Times, Toronto Globe and Mail, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, Newsweek, The Economist, Foreign Policy and news media around the world.

Professor Andrabi is a graduate of Swarthmore College and holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He teaches classes in economic development, game theory, international economics and empirical microeconomics.





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