We examine the effects of malaria on educational attainment by exploiting geographic variation in malaria prevalence in India prior to a nationwide eradication program in the 1950s. Malaria eradication resulted in gains in literacy and primary school completion rates of approximately 12 percentage points. These estimates imply that the eradication of malaria can explain about half of the gains in these measures of educational attainment between the pre and post-eradication periods in areas where malaria was prevalent. The effects are not present in urban areas, where malaria was not considered to be a problem in the pre-eradication period. The results cannot be explained by convergence across areas. We find gains for both men and women as well as for members of scheduled castes and tribes, a traditionally disadvantaged group.
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