Mental Health Therapy as a Core Strategy for Increasing Human Capital: Evidence from Ghana (WP-21-47)
Nathan Baker, Gharad Bryan, Dean Karlan, Angela Ofori-Atta, and Christopher UdryThe researchers study the impact of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for individuals selected from the general population of poor households in rural Ghana. Results from 2–3 months after a randomized intervention show strong impacts on mental and physical health, cognitive and socioemotional skills, and downstream economic outcomes. The authors find no evidence of heterogeneity by baseline mental distress; they argue that this is because CBT can improve human capital for a general population of poor individuals through two pathways. First, CBT reduces vulnerability to deteriorating mental health; and second, CBT directly improves bandwidth, increasing cognitive and socioemotional skills and hence economic outcomes.