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IPA is synonymous with impact. We’re known for both measuring impact and using those results to impact people’s lives. In 2015, we further improved our research quality and grew in research quantity, and we began new efforts to share results to improve programs and policies for the poor. Since our founding in 2002, IPA has worked with over 400 leading academics to conduct over 600 evaluations in 51 countries. This research has informed hundreds of successful programs that now impact millions of individuals worldwide. Browse an online version of the report here: annualreport.poverty-action.org
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Annual Report
Date:
September 12, 2016
English
Potential Energy: Monitoring Cookstoves Use Through Environmental Sensors Around the world, 3 billion people cook with biomass, causing over four million annual premature deaths, and generating 30% of global black carbon emissions. In addition to the acute health and environmental effects of biomass cooking, there are economic effects, as women across the developing world spend considerable time and money acquiring fuel. For a family in Sub-Saharan Africa, it can cost between 10-30% of total household income to purchase fuel for cooking fires.  Potential Energy (PE) is a not-for-profit organization with a mission of making cooking safe, and affordable, for women and their families. PE’s core product is the Berkeley-Darfur Stove (BDS), a high-efficiency wood-burning cookstove. As compared to preparing meals over an open fire, the BDS was designed to save users 50% on fuel while reducing cooking time and exposure to smoke. To date, PE’s primary focus has been the distribution of the BDS...
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Goldilocks Toolkit
Date:
November 28, 2016
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Antipoverty programs in developing countries are often difficult to implement; in particular, many governments lack the capacity to deliver payments securely to targeted beneficiaries. We evaluate the impact of biometrically authenticated payments infrastructure (“Smartcards”) on beneficiaries of employment (NREGS) and pension (SSP) programs in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, using a large-scale experiment that randomized the rollout of Smartcards over 157 subdistricts and 19 million people. We find that, while incompletely implemented, the new system delivered a faster, more predictable, and less corrupt NREGS payments process without adversely affecting program access. For each of these outcomes, treatment group distributions first-order stochastically dominated those of the control group. The investment was cost-effective, as time savings to NREGS beneficiaries alone were equal to the cost of the intervention, and there was also a significant reduction in the “leakage” of funds...
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Published Paper
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October 31, 2016
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We implemented a randomized controlled trial among transnational households in the Philippines estimating impacts on financial behaviors of a financial education treatment, a financial access treatment, and the combination of the two. We test whether there are complementarities between financial education and financial access interventions, and also provide insight into the nature of constraints operating in financial services markets. We find no evidence of complementarities between the financial education and financial access treatments. In addition, while we find no evidence of constraints in access to formal credit and savings products, our results do suggest that access constraints exist in the formal insurance market. Impacts on other financial behaviors are suggestive of the importance of information constraints in financial decision-making. These results provide guidance to designers of financial interventions in similar populations.
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Working Paper
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September 22, 2016
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Background: The recent global climate agreement in Paris aims to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions while fostering sustainable development, and establishes an international trading mechanism to meet this goal. Currently, carbon offset program implementers are allowed to collect their own monitoring data to determine the number of carbon credits to be awarded. Objectives: We summarize reasons for mandating independent monitoring of greenhouse gas emission reduction projects. In support of our policy recommendations, we describe a case study of a program designed to earn carbon credits by distributing almost one million drinking water filters in rural Kenya to avert the use of fuel for boiling water. We compare results from an assessment conducted by our research team in the program area among households with pregnant women or caregivers in rural villages with low piped water access with the reported program monitoring data and discuss the implications. Discussion: Our assessment in Keny...
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Published Paper
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September 16, 2016
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Asymmetric information can be costly in insurance markets and can even hinder market development, as is the case for most agricultural insurance markets. I study information asymmetries in crop insurance in the Philippines using a randomized field experiment. Using a combination of preference elicitation, a two-level randomized allocation of insurance and detailed data collection, I test for and find evidence of adverse selection, moral hazard and their interaction – that is, selection on anticipated moral hazard behavior. I conclude that information asymmetry problems are substantial in this context and that variations on this experimental design may be useful in future work for identifying interactions between choice and treatment effects.
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Working Paper
Date:
September 07, 2016
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Paving streets in marginalized neighborhoods in Mexico increased property values, allowing households to purchase more home appliances and vehicles and to invest more in home improvements.
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Brief
Date:
September 01, 2016
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Systematic reviews of existing evidence show promising effects of community health worker (CHW) programs as a strategy to improve child survival, but also highlight challenges faced by CHW programs, including insufficient incentives to deliver timely and appropriate services. We assessed the effect of an incentivized community health delivery program in Uganda on all-cause under-five mortality.
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Working Paper
Date:
September 01, 2016
Spanish
Una capacitación financiera simplificada basada en reglas prácticas mejoró las prácticas de negocios y los resultados económicos de microempresarios en República Dominicana, mientras que una capacitación técnica basada en principios contables tradicionales no produjo impactos significativos.
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Brief
Date:
August 30, 2016
English
Public employment programs play a major role in the anti-poverty strategy of many devel- oping countries. Besides the direct wages provided to the poor, such programs are likely to affect their welfare by changing broader labor market outcomes including wages and private employment. These general equilibrium effects may accentuate or attenuate the direct benefits of the program, but have been dicult to estimate credibly. We estimate the general equilibrium effects of a technological reform that improved the implementation quality of Indias public employment scheme on the earnings of the rural poor, using a large-scale experiment which randomized treatment across sub-districts of 60,000 people. We nd that this reform had a large impact on the earnings of low-income households, and that these gains were over- whelmingly driven by higher private-sector earnings (90%) as opposed to earnings directly from the program (10%). These earnings gains reflect a 5.7% increase in market wages for ru...
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Working Paper
Date:
August 30, 2016
Spanish
El acceso a servicios nancieros es crucial para el crecimiento de la Pequeña y Mediana Empresa (PyME). Estos servicios permiten a los emprendedores innovar, incrementar su e ciencia, expandirse a nuevos mercados y crear nuevos puestos de trabajo. Sin embargo, la mayoría de las PyMEs en países en desarrollo son incapaces de conseguir el nanciamiento necesario para alcanzar su potencial. Proporcionar nanciamiento a las PyMEs en dichos países puede ser riesgoso y costoso para los prestamistas, lo que ha llevado a una brecha de crédito de aproximadamente un billón de dólares (IFC, 2011). Para reducir la brecha de crédito, instituciones nancieras, gobiernos y donantes han invertido en una gran cantidad de programas y políticas orientadas a proporcionar a las PyMEs el nanciamiento necesario para crecer e innovar. No obstante, la e cacia de estos programas en reducir los obstáculos para el nanciamiento de las PyMEs no ha sido evaluada con rigor. El Programa PyME en Innovations for P...
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Brief
Date:
August 12, 2016
English
We evaluated a program to improve literacy instruction on the Kenyan coast using training workshops, semiscripted lesson plans, and weekly text-message support for teachers to understand its impact on students’ literacy outcomes and on the classroom practices leading to those outcomes. The evaluation ran from the beginning of Grade 1 to the end of Grade 2 in 51 government primary schools chosen at random, with 50 schools acting as controls. The intervention had an impact on classroom practices with effect sizes from 0.57 to 1.15. There was more instruction with written text and more focus on letters and sounds. There was a positive impact on three of four primary measures of children’s literacy after two years, with effect sizes up to 0.64, and school dropout reduced from 5.3% to 2.1%. This approach to literacy instruction is sustainable, and affordable and a similar approach has subsequently been adopted nationally in Kenya.
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Published Paper
Date:
August 11, 2016
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One Acre Fund: Measuring Yields from Space A substantial proportion of the world’s poor are smallholder farmers, and measuring their productivity is a basic first step in understanding where livelihoods are improving (and where additional help is needed).  Unfortunately, comprehensive data on farmers’ productivity do not exist.  They are collected piecemeal by researchers and governments in limited areas of the globe, and over limited periods, typically using household surveys which are both expensive and time consuming.  One Acre Fund (1AF) is a social enterprise working with such farmers in East Africa. 1AF’s mission is to address long-standing barriers to farmer productivity. 1AF provides seeds and fertilizers on credit, delivers agricultural inputs within walking distance of farmers’ homes, trains farmers on how to use inputs most effectively, helps them store their crops safely, and links them to local traders to provide access to markets. This comprehensive approach is geared tow...
Type:
Goldilocks Toolkit
Date:
August 09, 2016
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Premise: Monitoring Food Prices in Post-Disaster Environments In most countries, government agencies collect data on the prices of consumer goods throughout the year, using periodic market and household level surveys run by National Statistics Offices (NSOs). The data are reported in aggregate (in the form of a monthly consumer price index, for example) and are used for central planning and macroeconomic policy as well as private sector decision-making.  In tandem, the World Food Programme (WFP) monitors prices for a small set of staple goods, particularly in areas of the world prone to food insecurity, where emergencies are frequent and resources to collect high quality data are scarce. WFP is a United Nations (UN) humanitarian agency that fights hunger worldwide through food aid, emergency assistance, and disaster prevention activities. A key function of the agency is to track food security globally, through a program of Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM). The VAM is a collecti...
Type:
Goldilocks Toolkit
Date:
August 09, 2016
English
Women who received private access to vouchers for contraceptives were more likely to take up and use contraception, compared to women whose husbands were involved in the voucher program. In contexts in which women have less bargaining power in family planning decisions, providing private access to contraceptives may be an important and effective means of enabling women to achieve their fertility goals.
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Brief
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July 25, 2016
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An audit study was conducted in Ghana, Mexico and Peru to understand the quality of financial information and products offered to low-income customers. Trained auditors visited multiple financial institutions, seeking credit and savings products. Consistent with Gabaix and Laibson (2006), staff only provides information about the cost when asked, disclosing less than a third of the total cost voluntarily. In fact, the cost disclosed voluntarily is uncorrelated with the expensiveness of the product. In addition, clients are rarely offered the cheapest product, most likely because staff is incentivized to offer more expensive and thus more profitable products to the institution. This suggests that clients are not provided enough information to be able to compare among products, and that disclosure and transparency policies may be ineffective because they undermine the commercial interest of financial institutions.
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Type:
Working Paper
Date:
July 19, 2016
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We experimentally test the impact of expanding access to basic bank accounts in Uganda, Malawi, and Chile. Over two years, 17%, 10%, and 3% of treatment individuals made five or more deposits, respectively. Average monthly deposits for them were at the 79th, 91st, and 96th percentiles of baseline savings. Survey data show no clearly discernible intention-to-treat effects on savings or any downstream outcomes. This suggests that policies merely focused on expanding access to basic accounts are unlikely to improve welfare noticeably since impacts, even if present, are likely small and diverse.
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Working Paper
Date:
July 13, 2016
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Using new data from a field experiment in India, we test hypotheses about micropension design in a poor population. We elicit demand for the basic micropension in addition to variants with different minimum withdrawal ages, government match rates, and options for lump sum withdrawal. A majority (80%) of respondents report interest in the micropension, and the amount they are willing to contribute would be enough to cover about 40% of expected old-age consumption. We find that prospective policyholders value the inability to access the assets until a particular age. We also find that they respond positively to the government match rate.
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Published Paper
Date:
July 12, 2016
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Initial access to school is nearly universal in Kenya, but many children who enroll drop out before completing primary school. In this mixed-methods study, we use quantitative data from a randomized control trial involving 2666 upper primary-grade students, as well as qualitative data from interviews with 41 schoolchildren, dropouts, and parents, to examine dropout. Poorer baseline performance on literacy and numeracy assessments predicted a higher risk of dropout. Interviews revealed that children are the primary decision-makers rather than parents. Together, these findings suggest that school quality interventions may be an effective means of reducing primary school dropout in this region.
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Published Paper
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July 06, 2016

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