Millions of people make their living running microenterprises, but these businesses typically fail to expand or provide more than subsistence-level income to their owners.  Giving loans and training to small businesses offer the possibility of helping them grow, but research has not found this to be effective. Yet, much of the existing evidence looks at women-owned businesses, as they are the primary recipients of microfinance programs.

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Access to savings accounts may help the poor through debt reduction, increased income through productive investments, and the ability to maintain spending during difficult times. However, there is little evidence on why people choose to open an account and whether interest rates or other account features are effective tools for expanding use.

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Business training is one of the most common ways that governments and organizations support small businesses around the world, but there is little rigorous evidence on the impacts of many of these training programs. In Kenya, researchers are conducting a randomized evaluation to measure the impact of the International Labour Organization’s Gender and Enterprise Together (GET Ahead) business training program on the profitability, growth, and survival of women-owned businesses.

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Behavioral research suggests that self-control, procrastination, attention, and other behavioral biases are an important limitation to the ability of individuals to set aside savings for the long-term. The development of mobile money infrastructures in many developing countries is creating new opportunities for the design and offer of financial products that can help low- and moderate-income individuals overcome these barriers.

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Can automatic monthly transfers from a checking account into a dedicated savings account help bank clients meet their savings goals? Can monthly SMS reminders to save or short ‘rules of thumb’ based financial training do the same at a lower cost?

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Many beneficiaries of social welfare programs around the world receive benefits in cash or by check. Can distributing welfare benefits through electronic transfers directly into bank accounts help some of these low-income individuals enter the formal financial sector?

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Mobile health technologies have the potential to strengthen health systems by increasing transparency and accountability in those systems. In Uganda, researchers are partnering with UNICEF and the Ministry of Health to develop a mobile health (mHealth) accountability system and to evaluate its effectiveness in improving the delivery of reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health services in Uganda.

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Why do people sometimes make poor financial choices? What drives individuals’ decisions about what to do with their money? IPA is partnering with a private shipping company in Lima, Peru to deliver a financial coaching program that aims to address behavioral biases that could be preventing their employees from making healthy financial choices. Researchers will evaluate the impact of the program on the employees’ financial decisions related to credit, savings, and money management.

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Increasing the adoption rates of female-initiated methods of contraception may help fill an unmet demand for family planning and reduce rates of HIV infection in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Zambia, researchers are measuring how an interpersonal communication intervention impacts knowledge, acceptability, use of condoms and uptake of female condoms in the context of a mass distribution and marketing campaign for the new Maximum Diva Woman’s Condom.

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Limited knowledge of financial concepts is associated with poor financial behavior such as low rate of formal savings, poor usage of bank accounts, amongst others. Well-designed financial education programs have the potential to improve financial knowledge and behavior, leading to improvements in wellbeing.

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Financial products have the potential to help the poor, yet most financial institutions are driven by commercial goals, and their staff may not be incentivized to offer products most suitable to low-income clients. This audit study aims to determine the types of information institutions provide to low-income financial customers in urban Colombia, and identify any differences in institutions’ treatment of customers based on perceived financial knowledge.

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Policymakers in countries dominated by small and medium-sized firms face challenges in spurring them to grow and hire more workers. In particular, it has been difficult to distinguish entrepreneurs with potential for growth from their “subsistence entrepreneur” peers. Researchers used a national business plan competition in Nigeria to test if selecting winners and offering them $50,000 cash could encourage their firms to grow.

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Agricultural production entails large risks from crop failure which farmers living at subsistence levels are ill-suited to bear. Attempts to reduce these risks through insurance contracts have typically been unsuccessful because farmers have chosen not to buy insurance when it comes time to plant.

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Evidence suggests that facilitating access to formal savings services can increase savings, investment, and income among the poor in developing countries. However, use of these accounts is relatively low, and it is less clear how to increase interest in, and usage of, formal savings services among the poor.

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Differences in managerial quality appear to be critical to explaining productivity differences across firms, with poorly managed firms potentially unable to take advantage of opportunities for high growth. The question this study seeks to address is how to bridge the management gap among small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

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Recent technological innovations may provide effective tools for monitoring public sector employees’ performance. Researchers partnered with the Government of Paraguay to measure the impact of GPS-enabled cell phones on the job performance of agricultural extension agents.

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Efficient targeting of public programs is difficult when the costs or benefits to potential recipients are unobservable. This study examined the potential of self-selection to improve allocational efficiency in the context of a program that subsidized tree planting in Malawi.

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Informational campaigns and price subsidies are common ways to increase the use of health products in developing countries, but little is known about the effect of combining these tools. In Zambia, researchers investigated whether households’ demand for chlorine at varying subsidy levels was dependent on their knowledge of the product. They found that providing additional information about chlorine significantly increased the impact of price subsidies on demand for the product.

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Adoption of agricultural technologies like fertilizer and improved seeds is low in African countries compared to other developing countries and evidence suggests that using these technologies can dramatically increase farm productivity and income. In an ongoing study, researchers are collaborating with One Acre Fund to examine the effect of credit and savings on the adoption of fertilizer and hybrid seeds, farm productivity, and farmer livelihoods.

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While political debates are often considered an integral part of campaign strategy, there is little definitive evidence on whether they affect how people vote. In Sierra Leone, researchers partnered with the civil society organization Search for Common Ground to evaluate how the dissemination of political information through debates impacts voter behavior, campaign spending, and the performance of elected politicians.

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