Date of Graduation

Summer 8-31-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in International and Development Economics (MSIDEC)


College of Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Bruce Wydick


India has a backlog of nearly one million patients in need of cleft lip and palate repair. Unrepaired cleft results in social stigma and diminished health, psychological wellbeing, and academic functioning. Cleft repair surgery has the potential to restore functioning in these domains. However, the magnitude of the social, educational, and economic impact of cleft repair surgery has not been evaluated using statistically rigorous methods. An estimation of the academic and educational impact of cleft repair has implications for the appropriate allocation of public health resources. We analyze original data gathered from teenagers in West Bengal, India using the difference-in-differences estimation method. We compare the life outcomes of teens who had cleft repair surgery to their nearest age (non-cleft) siblings and in turn compare this difference to the difference between teens who did not have access to the surgery at a young age and the life outcomes of their own siblings. Contrary to the outcome predicted by the cleft literature, our study’s main finding is that cleft teens in our sample do not perform significantly worse than their (non-cleft) siblings on cognitive, math, and reading ability measures. However, the poor quality of public education in rural India makes it difficult to distinguish the treatment effect on academic ability. Furthermore, this study is underpowered. A larger sample size and additional studies across regions throughout India would be needed to yield more definitive and meaningful results.