Inequalities in development begin early in life. Children growing up in poor households often don’t get the nutrition and early stimulation they need for healthy development. Good preprimary programs can help poor children catch up, but many children are unable to enroll or attend regularly. This evaluation studied whether addressing financial and non-financial barriers can be effective for promoting early school access among poor, mainly Roma children in Bulgaria and promote greater Roma inclusion in European society more broadly.
Research area: Early Childhood Nutrition, Development, and Health
Evaluation Sample: 6,000 poor families in 236 settlements
Intervention: Tuition Waivers, Conditional Cash Transfers, Community Outreach, Information
Researchers: Professor Elise Huillery, Sciences Po; Professor Paul Gertler, University of California Berkeley; Joost de Laat, World Bank
Bulgaria’s population of 7.3 million includes some 700,000 to 800,000 Roma, the majority of whom are poor and live in vulnerable conditions. Roma children in particular suffer multiple disadvantages and few complete secondary school. The education gap between Roma and other children starts early; while more than 75 percent of all Bulgarian children aged three to six attend a preprimary program, many Bulgarian Roma children don’t go to preprimary school and they often live in homes without books or toys. Bulgaria recently passed a law making two years of preprimary education compulsory for all children, usually starting at age five. While fees have been lifted for children aged 5 and 6, in practice, parents are often asked to contribute to cover various fees, which can harm enrollment from poor families. For children ages 3 and 4, preprimary programs aren’t free, which is an impediment especially for poor families.