In the poor, rural Gansu province in China, 10-15% of young students need glasses but only 2% of those kids actually have glasses. To follow up on my previous post on the science of charitable giving, in this post I’ll briefly describe a recent study which found that simply giving these students glasses significantly increased their average test scores!
Economists at the University of Minnesota and Oxford University found this effect during the course of a randomized trial with school children in Gansu. Working with local health officials, the researchers randomly assigned kids from some townships to get free glasses and other townships as controls. They found that after only one year, average test scores for students who accepted the glasses increased significantly relative to controls.
The authors of this paper make the excellent point that while increased school attendance is important, if kids aren’t actually learning because of things like impaired vision, education will not help improve their financial and social situation. Providing glasses to kids in poor countries is cheap. Cheap, effective methods means that your charity dollars can go a lot further.
See an early draft of the paper on the glasses study here.