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  • Many isolated indigenous communities in Latin America are getting increasing exposure and access to money. Villagers, such as those in the Amazonian basin where this study is being conducted, may be better able to save money by using a simple product like a savings lockbox. Partnering with a Bolivian non-profit, researchers are evaluating the impact of such products on the savings habits of the Tsimane’, a native Amazonian society who, research shows, have very high rates of impulsivity. What happens when recipients are given a lock box with a key compared to those who, to access their savings, have to travel to the nearest town to get the key? How do the savings habits of these groups compare to those not given a lock box at all? 
  • Many farming households turn to off-farm work to make ends meet between harvests, reducing the amount of time they can invest in increasing their farms’ productivity. In ongoing work in Zambia, researchers are testing the relationship between scarcity, labor supply and agricultural productivity. Selected farmers receive access to either cash or food loans during they lean season that they are responsible for repaying at harvest. Researchers will track a variety of outcomes including yields, labor supply, food consumption and how impacts vary within the household and by loan type. In a pilot, already completed, food loans were shown to increase food consumption during the lean season, reduce the portion of households engaging in off-farm work, and increase wages. In the pilot, both take up and repayment rates were over 90 percent and results clearly established the relevance of hunger as a driver of labor supply decisions. 
  • Policy Issue: Two million children die of diarrheal disease each year and contaminated water is often to blame. Treating water with chlorine could substantially reduce this toll. The most common approach to chlorination in areas without piped water infrastructure is to offer small bottles of chlorine for sale to consumers.However, chlorine use has been slow to catch on in this system. In this Kenyan study area, for example, less than 10% of households regularly use chlorine at a monthly cost of approximately US$0.30, despite several years of vigorous social marketing that has raised awareness about the product
  • In Sub-Saharan Africa, about 1.8 million people became infected with the HIV virus in 2011, with the majority of new cases attributed to unprotected sex. This study tested whether providing sexual health information through SMS messaging could lower rates of risky behavior. Through a partnership with a telecommunications provider, Google, and the Grameen Foundation, a new service was marketed to randomly chosen villages which allowed people to query a database by texting sexual health questions to a phone number. Follow-up quantitative surveys using new methodologies for asking sensitive questions found an increase in self-reported infidelity. Among some men, numbers of reported sexual partners went up, while more women reported abstinence. Qualitative interviews suggest a possible explanation for this gender difference.   Read the full paper here.
  • Adequate housing is thought to provide a number of benefits, including greater satisfaction with one’s quality of life, better mental and physical health, protection against extreme weather, and improved safety and defense against crime. Researchers measured the impact of improving the quality of slum housing on household wellbeing in El Salvador, Mexico, and Uruguay, with IPA implementing the evaluation in Mexico. Residents were selected to receive housing upgrades by lottery. Results showed that slum upgrading significantly improved satisfaction with quality of life. In two countries positive and significant effects were detected in child health. In El Salvador, significant and positive effects were observed in the perception of safety. Finally, no effects were detected in labor market variables and in the accumulation of durable goods.
    El Salvador, Mexico
    Ultra Poor
  • Recent efforts to increase primary school education enrollment in developing countries have been extremely successful, yet major challenges persist in improving educational outcomes. In sub-Saharan Africa, high drop out rates, especially for girls, as well as student and teacher absenteeism are major impediments to learning. Many students, especially girls from low-income families in rural areas, miss so much school that they become chronic repeaters. This study assesses the impact of a program that aims to improve student retention and learning outcomes for marginalized pupils in Ghana through distance learning and an after-school girls’ empowerment program.
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