Promoting Capabilities: Context Effect in Early Education, a Multilevel Analysis, Colombia 2003-2013

Lezama, Paula Andrea (1); Castillo-Caicedo, Maribel (2) (2016). 'Promoting Capabilities: Context Effect in Early Education, a Multilevel Analysis, Colombia 2003-2013' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

This paper seeks to understand the context effect (region, area, home) in the decision-making process of families that send children (0-5 years) to receive early education. It is argued that this analysis goes beyond the maximization of a household utility function, even when said function includes a context effect (approach proposed by Becker (1962) and the economics of family theory). We use Amartya Sen's Capability Approach and multilevel models for the case of Colombia and the city of Cali, to show the fundamental role that social opportunities, specifically early education, play in building infant’s capabilities.[1]
From the perspective of Sen’s Capability Approach, public policy should expand individual freedoms, not only because the enjoyment of various freedoms allows individuals to live a fulfilling life, but because content individuals, in turn, have a positive influence on the social fabric in which they are immerse. Sen identifies five instrumental freedoms that public policy should promote "(1) political freedoms, (2) economic facilities, (3) social opportunities, (4) transparency guarantees and (5) protective security."(1999, p.38). The right to education, which is a transcendental piece of the substantive freedom that the individual enjoys to live a better life is part of the 'social opportunities,' society must procure for its citizens.
Given that the decisions of the individual and the household are highly influenced by the social opportunities they have access to, the paper seeks to determine the context effect (Region, Area, Home) in the decision-making process of households that send infants to receive early education in Colombia. The exercise was also conducted for the city of Cali, identifying the 'Commune' effect. Information from the Quality of Life Survey (ECV) DANE[2] 2003 to 2012 was used, and ECV 2013 for the city of Cali.
 Theoretically, it is argued that Sen’s Capability Approach enables a more comprehensive analysis of early education, its positive effects on individual freedom, and the need for social opportunities easily accessible and of high quality. Empirically, it is concluded that the context -Region- effect is highly significant. According to results of the multilevel models, the region effect was above 50% in all ECVs analyzed, while the home effect barely reached 10%. That is, families send children to receive education if they find an educational establishment of high quality where education is accompanied by nutrition and health services. In this line of reasoning, it is important to mention that it was possible to analyze the conditional cash transfer program, Families in Action for 2012, finding that this variable positively affects school attendance of children under five years. Finally, these arguments as a whole support the provision of social opportunities, including the provision of early education, promoting access to other linked services such as nutrition and health.
[1] This article is part of a larger work, and corresponds to the quantitative study of the analysis of early childhood education in Colombia. The qualitative paper entitled, “Recognition before Capabilities: Early Childhood and their Justice Aspirations,” was presented in HDCA 2015. The qualitative results, supported the vast literature on early childhood education and development. From the children, the parents and teachers perspective, providing a safe and nurturing environment for children to be loved, care for and respected, constitute an expansion of their capabilities (welfare). Hence, social arrangements such as early childhood educational policies, and guidelines for home and school care, would also constitute a fine instrument to expand children capabilities. Now, we seek to strengthen the argument by providing robust statistical analysis at the macro level.
[2] National Department of Statistics, Colombia. DANE for its acronym in Spanish.

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