The Legacy of Socialism and Female Labor Supply in Modernizing Vietnam
with Hyejin Ku

This paper investigates how state institutions such as socialist regime may affect women’s labor market outcomes in an emerging economy. We exploit the setting of reunified Vietnam and the provincial variation in export growth after Vietnam’s trade liberalization in the 2000s. Based on a difference-in-differences design, we establish that while export growth has overall positive effects on the labor market outcomes of both female and male workers (e.g. transition into the formal sector or moving away from the agricultural sector), it leads to a significant negative effect on women’s labor force participation. We then show that the decline in female labor supply is mainly concentrated in the South. Using the post-unification forced migration policy as a natural experiment, we obtain a similar pattern when comparing Northern-born population living in the South to Southern-born natives. Overall, our analysis illustrates that their early exposure to the socialist regime, which stresses equality between the genders, may have nurtured attitudes more conducive to women’s labor market attachment and economic inclusion among Northern Vietnamese relative to their Southern counterparts.

Paying (and paving) my way: the impacts of extra class participation on primary-school pupils in Vietnam [slide]

Extra class, or private tutoring offered by schoolteachers to their own pupils, is a widespread phenomenon in many developing countries. This paper examines the effectiveness of extra class on pupils’ learning at primary schools in Vietnam. I find that teachers grant higher school grades to pupils attending extra class, but extra class attendance does not yield higher scores at standardized achievement tests. I interpret these results as evidence of opportunistic behavior, whereby teachers exploit their arbitrariness in awarding grades, which count for secondary school admissions, to extract rents. The extent of grade inflation is higher in institutionally underdeveloped settings. Attending extra class also generates a gap in pupils’ self-image. These findings provide relevant policy implications to align this informal sector with the country’s education system.

The effects of the Vietnam Hunger Eradication and Poverty Reduction program on schooling
with Marco Bertoni and Lorenzo Rocco, IZA Discussion Paper No. 12747, Nov 2019

This paper studies the effects of the Vietnam Hunger Eradication and Poverty Reduction (HEPR) program on school enrolment, using longitudinal data that span over 15 years and a difference-in-differences research design. We find that early treatment (at age 8) increases enrolment by about 9 percentage points. This positive effect disappears by age 15, and is more pronounced in urban areas. In sharp contrast, children receiving treatment later (age 12–15) are more likely to drop out by age 15, especially in rural areas. The decline in enrolment is paralleled by an increase in labor market participation. We interpret these divergent results by age as an unintended effect of another program aimed at fostering vocational training among the 15+ in rural areas. Our findings highlight the importance of coordinating different anti-poverty measures to reduce inefficiency and achieve social goals.