Tram Nguyen is a third year PhD student in the economics department at Stanford University. Originally from Vietnam, Tram has had more than ten years of education and work experience in New Zealand, China and the US Prior to her doctorate studies, Tram worked as a research assistant at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston for two years after receiving her bachelor degree in Mathematics and Economics at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. While at Bates College, she received research grants in two consecutive summers to design her own independent research on aqua-cultural economics in Vietnam. She was awarded the best thesis in Economics in her senior year.
At Stanford, Tram has completed the core courses and two field sequences in development economics and microeconomic theory. She continues exploring her interests in the field of development economics, with a focus on agriculture and education in the East Asia region. Her first paper studies the impact of infrastructure improvements on agricultural prices and farmers’ welfare. Her current project examines the impact of garment export manufacturing on the lives of young women in Cambodia. She plans to complete her future dissertation on the same research topic of education and women welfare in low-income countries.
The proposed research project studies the impact of the expansion of the export-led garment industry in Cambodia in the mid-1990s on welfare of young women. The killings of the educated by the Khmer Rouge from 1976 to 1979 left Cambodia in a devastating state, particularly the educational system and average literacy. The expansion of the garment manufacturing sector, despite its reputation for being sweatshops, could have significant spillover impact on improving education after the genocide. The nature of garment manufacturing work requires skills that are female-specific, resulting in most garment factory workers in Cambodia being young women between age sixteen and thirty. Garment factories jobs create higher return to education for women compared to traditional agriculture work. Consequently, I expect that when the garment factories first opened in a province, young female cohorts who were still under the minimum working age would obtain more education than their counterparts in non-garment provinces. The effects should also be larger for the younger cohorts and for female cohorts due to aspiration effects. Additionally, I expect positive impacts on non-educational outcomes such as health and marriage age. In particular, being exposed to garment jobs should improve girls’ health conditions and delay marriage age, which increase life conditions of young women. The results are important to policy recommendations that aim to improve low demand for education and enhance women lives in developing countries.