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English
IPA is all about leverage. 2014 was focused on bringing in more talented people and more extraordinary partners to leverage existing resources for more impact on the world. Together with our partners, IPA has designed and evaluated more than 275 potential solutions to poverty problems, and has over 245 studies in progress. This performance is a testament to the dedication of IPA staff, both on the ground in the field and in our headquarters, our implementing partners and researchers, the decision-makers who help put our findings to work, and our funders.  Browse an online version of the report here: annualreport.poverty-action.org  
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Annual Report
Date:
October 01, 2015
English
Theoretically, weather-index insurance is an effective risk reduction option for small-scale farmers in low-income countries. Renewed policy and donor emphasis on bridging gender gaps in development also emphasizes the potential social safety net benefits that weather-index insurance could bring to women farmers who are disproportionately vulnerable to climate change risk and have low adaptive capacity. To date, no quantitative studies have experimentally explored weather-index insurance preferences through a gender lens, and little information exists regarding gender-specific preferences for (and constraints to) smallholder investment in agricultural weather-index insurance. This study responds to this gap, and advances the understanding of preference heterogeneity for weather-index insurance by analysing data collected from 433 male and female farmers living on a climate change vulnerable coastal island in Bangladesh, where an increasing number of farmers are adopting maize as a pote...
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Published Paper
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May 01, 2016
English
Individuals across the world use high-transaction-cost savings devices, even when lower-cost technologies are available. High costs may help savers protect resources from the demands of others. I investigate this hypothesis by randomly assigning ATM cards to 1,100 newly-opened bank accounts in rural Kenya. These cards reduced withdrawal fees by 50 percent. While the cards increased overall account use, the positive treatment effect is entirely driven by joint and male-owned accounts. I also find that individuals with low levels of household bargaining power save less when accounts have ATM cards, while individuals with high levels of household bargaining power save more.
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Working Paper
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April 14, 2016
Spanish A4
In Colombia, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our research below offer promising insights into everyday issues for Colombians. 
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Brief
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April 10, 2016
English
We show that extremely poor, war-affected women in northern Uganda have high returns to a package of $150 cash, five days of business skills training, and ongoing supervision. Sixteen months after grants, participants doubled their microenterprise ownership and incomes, mainly from petty trading. We also show these ultrapoor have too little social capital, but that group bonds, informal insurance, and cooperative activities could be induced and had positive returns. When the control group received cash and training 20 months later, we varied supervision, which represented half of the program costs. A year later, supervision increased business survival but not consumption.
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Published Paper
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April 01, 2016
Working Paper
Through a field experiment in Afghanistan, we show that default enrollment in payroll deductions increases rates of savings by 40 percentage points, and that this increase is driven by present-biased preferences. Working with Afghanistan’s primary mobile phone operator, we designed and deployed a new mobile phone-based automatic payroll deduction system. Each of 967 employees at the country’s largest firm was randomly assigned a default contribution rate (either 0% or 5%) as well as a matching incentive rate (0%, 25%, or 50%). We find that employees initially assigned a default contribution rate of 5% are 40 percentage points more likely to contribute to the account 6 months later than individuals assigned to a default contribution rate of zero; to achieve this effect through financial incentives alone would require a 50% match from the employer. We also find evidence of habit formation: default enrollment increases the likelihood that employees continue to save after the trial ended,...
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Working Paper
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March 25, 2016
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Weather index insurance protects farmers against losses from extreme weather and facilitates investment in their farms, but randomized evaluations in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have shown low demand for these products at market prices, suggesting the need for alternative approaches.  Key Findings: Without substantial subsidies, take-up of insurance was low. Large discounts increased take-up substantially, and interventions designed to increase financial literacy or reduce basis risk also had positive effects. However, at market prices, take-up was in the range of 6–18 percent, which cannot sustain unsubsidized markets. Insured farmers were more likely to plant riskier but higher-yielding crops. In the three studies that measured changes in farmer behavior, farmers who felt protected against weather risks shifted production toward crops that were more sensitive to weather but more profitable on average. While self-sustaining markets for weather index insurance have not emerged, f...
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Brief
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March 24, 2016
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Loans and business management training helped men grow their small business profits, but women did not experience any impacts on their businesses as a result of loans, training, or grants.
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Brief
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March 21, 2016
English
Providing universal access to primary healthcare for children is an important development goal. However, the subsidies needed to achieve this may lead to inefficient overuse of resources, compounded further if parents have limited ability to assess whether their child needs medical care. In order to study the impact of subsidies (which remove cost barriers) and healthworker visits (which remove informational barriers) on healthcare usage, we conduct a randomized control trial of these policies with 1,532 children in Mali. We show that over- and underuse are best determined in the context of a dynamic model that specifies when during an illness spell care is sought. Using nine weeks of daily data on health status and care received, we identify over- and underuse of primary care according to WHO guidelines and then estimate a hazard model of care that accounts for the censoring of observed demand caused by spontaneous recovery from an illness spell. We show that there is substantial unde...
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Working Paper
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March 18, 2016
English
In Zambia, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our research below offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Zambian poor.
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Brief
Date:
March 11, 2016
English
Low school attendance, absent or overwhelmed teachers, and underperforming schools are on-going impediments to educational attainment for the poor around the world. While many more children are in school than a decade ago, there are still 58 million children out of school, and even when these kids are in school and complete a few years of education, they are often still unable to read, write, and do basic math. The Education Program Area at Innovations for Poverty Action rigorously evaluates programs that aim to improve education outcomes and school attendance. In partnership with academic leaders in the field, our work has produced evidence on how to keep kids in school, such as through school-based deworming or sharing information on the benefits of schooling, and on how to make sure kids learn while there, such as in our teacher community assistant initiative in Ghana and through incentives, such as merit scholarships for students.
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Brief
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March 04, 2016
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With the support of the Citi Foundation, the Financial Capability Initiative at IPA incubates, develops, and rigorously evaluates products and programs that improve the ability of the poor to make informed financial decisions and adopt healthy financial behaviors. The Initiative conducts tests and evaluations of innovative, product linked financial education interventions and financial products that aim to improve financial capability.
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Brief
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March 04, 2016
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I use a field experiment in rural Kenya to study how temporary incentives to save impact long-run economic outcomes. Study participants who were randomly selected to receive large temporary interest rates on an individual bank account had signifi- cantly more income and assets 2.5 years after the interest rates expired. These changes are much larger than the short-run impacts on experimental bank account use and almost entirely driven by increased rates of entrepreneurship. Temporary interest rates directed to joint bank accounts had no detectable long-run impacts on entrepreneurship or income, but increased investment in household public goods and led to greater spousal consensus over financial matters. The short-run effects of modest unconditional cash payments were similar to those of the interest rates, but the cash payments had no apparent long-run impact on economic outcomes.
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Working Paper
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March 01, 2016
English
The pricing and advertising of tied add-ons and overages have come under increasing scrutiny. Working with a large Turkish bank to test SMS direct marketing promotions to 108,000 existing holders of “free” checking accounts, we find that promoting a large discount on the 60% APR charged for overdrafts reduces overdraft usage. In contrast, messages mentioning overdraft availability without mentioning price increase usage. Neither change persists long after messages stop, suggesting that induced overdrafting is not habit-forming. We discuss implications for interventions to promote transparency in pricing and advertising, and for models of shrouded equilibria, limited attention, and salience.
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Working Paper
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January 20, 2016
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This paper tests whether uncertainty about future rainfall affects farmers’ decision-making through cognitive load. Behavioral theories predict that rainfall risk could impose a psychological tax on farmers, leading to material consequences at all times and across all states of nature, even within decisions unrelated to consumption smoothing, and even when negative rainfall shocks do not materialize down the line. Using a novel technology to run lab experiments in the field, we combine recent rainfall shocks and survey experiments to test the effects of rainfall risk on farmers’ cognition, and find that it decreases farmers’ attention, memory and impulse control, and increases their susceptibility to a variety of behavioral biases. In theory, insurance could mitigate those effects by alleviating the material consequences of rainfall risk. To test this hypothesis, we randomly assign offers of an index insurance product, and find that it does not affect farmers’ cognitive load. These res...
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Working Paper
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January 19, 2016
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We implemented a randomized intervention among Malawian farmers aimed at facilitating formal savings for agricultural inputs. Treated farmers were offered the opportunity to have their cash crop harvest proceeds deposited directly into new bank accounts in their own names, while farmers in the control group were paid harvest proceeds in cash (the status quo). The treatment led to higher savings in the months immediately prior to the next agricultural planting season, and raised agricultural input usage in that season. We also find positive treatment effects on subsequent crop sale proceeds and household expenditures. Because the treatment effect on savings was only a small fraction of the treatment effect on the value of agricultural inputs, mechanisms other than alleviation of savings constraints per se are needed to explain the treatment’s impact on input utilization. We discuss other possible mechanisms through which treatment effects may have operated.
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Published Paper
Date:
January 01, 2016
English
In the previous IPA Health Bulletin (August 2015) we discussed the discernible positive differences in household behaviors and child health in districts where the Community Health Assistants were recruited using career incentives (“Career CHAs”) in comparison with those recruited using community incentives (“Control CHAs”). Over the past months IPA has been meeting with government stakeholders - including the MOH HR Technical Working Group - and presenting what these results mean for the cost-benefit of providing career incentives for the CHAs. Here is a brief summary of that presentation.
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January 01, 2016
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Financial products and transfer schemes are often designed to help individuals follow through intertemporal plans by not giving into “temptation”. We implement an artefactual field experiment in Malawi to test the ability of households to manage a cash windfall and learn whether savings defaults and delayed payments change consumption patterns in ways that are likely to be welfare improving. We vary whether 600 households receive a windfall payment in cash or through direct deposit into pre-established accounts at a local bank, and whether payments are made immediately, with one day’s delay, or with eight days’ delay. Defaulting the payment into a savings account leads to higher bank savings, an effect that persists for a number of weeks afterwards. However, neither savings defaults nor payment delays affect the amount or composition of spending, suggesting that households manage cash effectively without the use of formal financial products.
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Working Paper
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December 07, 2015
English
In the Philippines, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Two completed evaluations offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Filipino poor.
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Brief
Date:
December 01, 2015
English
Experimental tests of microcredit programs have consistently failed to find effects on business and household income. Does the current microfinance model and targeting of clients miss important effects from finance? I present results of a randomized experiment with microenterprise owners in Uganda that sought to expand access to finance for men and women who generally did not qualify for finance under normal circumstances with the goal of inceasing business profits and employment. Participants were offered either capital with repayment (subsidized loans) or without (grants) and were randomly chosen to receive or not receive business skills training in conjunction with the capital. Consistent with existing literature, I find no effect for female enterprises from either form of capital or the training. However, I find large effects for men with access to loans combined with training. There is no effect for men or women from the grants, suggesting repayment requirements can increase the l...
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Working Paper
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December 01, 2015

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