Does Mother’s Schooling Matter Most in Rural Bangladesh? Re-contextualizing an Old Debate in a New Era of School Reform

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Paper Abstract: 
This paper explores the dynamic interplay between parental wealth, parental schooling, government schooling initiatives and child schooling outcomes in rural Bangladesh. In doing so, I engage with the vast literature that suggests mother’s schooling is the most important predictor of offspring schooling attainment and empirically investigate whether this continues to be the case in the context of recent waves of school reform. Methodologically, I improve upon past estimates by using a gender-disaggregated measure of wealth that is exogenous to decision-making in marriage: men’s and women’s assets at marriage. I run a series of Cox semi-proportional hazard models estimating factors that predict rates of school entry and duration between entry and exit, as well as OLS regression estimates of grade progression between entry and exit. Findings indicate that mother’s schooling, and to some extent father’s schooling, are important predictors of offspring attainment even after controlling for government schooling initiatives and improved measures of wealth. Substantively, I argue for a re-contextualization of the literature on household decision-making to better understand the nuanced interplay between household factors and external programs and incentives in the context of mass schooling reform in Bangladesh and around the globe.