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Elisabetta Aurino

University of Barcelona

Assistant Professor
Department of Economic History, World Economy and Institutions
(starting January 2022)

PhD, Development Economics,
University of Rome, 2013
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Research Focus

Elisabetta Aurino’s research focuses on learning and human development from the early years to young adulthood. She is especially interested in how long-term well-being can be fostered by strategic investments in key developmental stages such as early childhood or adolescence. She combines multiple data sources, such as experiments and panel data from household and school surveys, to advance scientific evidence about child learning, health and development. Her vision is to provide rigorous and cutting-edge research that supports the generation of effective, scalable and context-specific interventions to enhance child development in low-income communities globally.

My plans for the fellowship period

During my Fellowship, I will continue existing studies and initiate new ones. The first is a trial in Ghana with Sharon Wolf, a JF Fellowship alumni that evaluates SMS-nudges to parents to support learning, parental school engagement, and gender parity. The study is co-funded by the JF and other partners, such as the World Bank and EdTech.

The second study, with J. Behrman and L. Aber, assesses long-term effects of early childhood education (ECE) on child development.

Further, I will embed a second trial within this on-going experimental sample. This new study will assess whether extra support during early adolescence through a low-cost program can boost the long-term effects of ECE on child development and close human development gaps. The study of interaction between these two stages is novel. Thus, I will advance our knowledge of how investments in key developmental windows interact to support child development, and whether a low-touch intervention in adolescence can mitigate lack of support experienced in the early childhood years.

Finally, I will investigate the role of home environments, and particularly household food insecurity and poverty, in shaping education, health and well-being trajectories as children transition to early adulthood.

How will my work change children’s and youth’s lives?

Early childhood is a key window for human development, supporting long-run well-being. Yet, globally, millions of young children do not reach basic developmental milestones due to poverty, malnutrition, or low stimulation. The COVID-19 crisis exacerbates this challenge and widens inequalities. What can we do to support children that have missed this window to grow into thriving adults? And, for those children that did benefit from early childhood investments, how can we ensure that gains are sustained over the life course?

My Fellowship will address these important questions through novel and rigorous evidence-generation on the effectiveness and equity of three educational programs in Ghana, with the goal of advancing knowledge on human development and learning. The interventions I evaluate are scalable, adaptable, and sustainable if proven effective.

I will work with policy partners in Ghana such as the Ministry of Education and other key stakeholders such as parents, teachers, and children to co-create interventions and understand what works (or not) and why. This is a key step in the pathway to scalability. Outside Ghana, I will work with the Jacobs Foundation, other Fellows, and international policymakers to develop innovative solutions or adapt successful interventions to support all children and adolescents to thrive.

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