Pension systems aim to prevent poverty among the elderly and to help ensure people have adequate income across their lifetime. But, only a small proportion (25 percent) of the global labor force contributes or accrues pension funds, and in developing countries essentially no small firms’ employees have pension coverage.

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In places with limited formal institutions, social and family networks play an important role in people’s lives, with friends and relations often sharing financial resources. The social norm which requires resources be shared may reduce incentives to work, with negative economic consequences.

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The government of Bangladesh is trying to strengthen local justice systems in rural areas by establishing close-to-home, low-cost village courts that adjudicated minor disputes between residents. Innovations for Poverty Action is working with researchers to evaluate the impact of the village court system on access to and quality of justice as well as socioeconomic outcomes.

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Sub-Saharan Africa is undergoing rapid demographic growth. While formal unemployment is low, wage job opportunities are also limited. In this context, a vast majority of young people are engaged in low-productivity self-employment. Traditional apprenticeships are one of the most common sources of skills acquisition for youths. Many governments attempt to intervene in the apprenticeship market, but there is limited evidence on the impacts of these public interventions.

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Recent evidence suggests formal savings accounts can lead to increased savings for the poor, but uptake of bank accounts has been low. There is also evidence suggesting that savings for specific goals can potentially be increased by enabling people to commit money towards goal-specific “mental accounts”.

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Although the ability to control fertility can have broad social and economic consequences, social norms and misinformation can discourage contraceptive use in many countries. Innovations for Poverty Action is working with researchers to evaluate the impact of a three-year mass media campaign focused on family planning and gender norms in Burkina Faso. 

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Although attending and completing a high quality secondary school program can propel students towards greater success in the job market, many students do not enroll in secondary school. Further, some of those who do enroll either drop out or attend low quality secondary schools, even when they qualify for higher performing options.

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Can social incentives increase demand for skilled pregnancy care? How much do people care to signal to others that they looked after their and their children's health? How much do people learn from observing others’ actions?

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Millions of children die from preventable diseases every year, primarily in low-income countries. In rural Uganda, researchers are working with Innovations for Poverty Action to evaluate the impact on child mortality of an at-scale community health worker program based on a micro-franchise business model.

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Can social incentives increase timely and complete immunizations? How much do people care to signal to others that they look after their and their children’s health? How much do people learn from observing others’ actions?

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When small or informal firms are invisible or inaccessible to large buyers, including governments, these firms cannot grow and reach their full potential.  Innovations for Poverty Action is working with researchers to evaluate whether a bid training provided by Building Markets that intends to teach businesses how to find, apply for, and win larger contracts can help small businesses grow.

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When children do not receive adequate nourishment in the first years of life, it can impair their physical and cognitive development and have long-term consequences on their earnings and productivity. In Myanmar, which has one of the highest rates of stunting in the Asia-Pacific region, Innovations for Poverty Action is working with researchers to evaluate the impact of maternal cash transfers and nutritional information on child malnutrition.

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Despite the initial promise of microcredit, randomized evaluations have found at best modest effects of microloans on poverty. Digitized payments from government cash transfer programs provide a unique opportunity to offer microcredit while addressing some of its shortcomings, potentially reducing interest rates, default risk, and repayment issues.

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Youth account for 60% of the unemployed in Africa. One approach to increasing employment among youth is to provide training and mentoring for young people to help them find jobs or start new businesses. This study evaluates the impact of a training and mentorship program with a robust long-term support component on Tanzanian youth’s employment, entrepreneurial activities, and self-confidence.

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Primary school enrollment has risen in Sub-Saharan Africa over the past two decades, but secondary school enrollment rates remain relatively low. In this ongoing study in Ghana, researchers are evaluating the effect of secondary school scholarships on educational attainment and cognitive skills in the short run, and on life outcomes in the longer run, from employment and health outcomes to civic participation and attitudes.

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A panel discusses the entrepreneurship evaluation in Mexico

A lack of access to finance can impede the potential for growth among small firms. To meet this finance gap and to encourage high-growth entrepreneurship, governments and multilateral agencies throughout the developing world often directly fund small and medium enterprises. Governments, however, have little guidance when it comes to choosing the firms with growth potential, and making sure that limited funds are targeted where they will spur the most growth.

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Numerous developing country governments, such as Brazil and Mexico, have adopted conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs as a social safety net, providing billions of dollars in transferred funds to millions of low-income citizens, in many cases by depositing them directly into a bank account. However, most of these recipients have little to no previous experience with formal financial products, thus providing the opportunity for product-linked training.

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Women in Malawi are assigned family planning courses

Improving access to family planning in Sub-Saharan Africa has the potential to help women and couples achieve their desired family size and avert unintended pregnancies and unwanted births. It may also have longer-term effects by improving women’s health, educational attainment, and socio-economic status. However, little is actually known about the effectiveness of family planning.

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A fertilizer retailer in Tanzania

Small farm productivity in sub-Saharan Africa lags behind that in Asia and other parts of the world. One reason for this may be low rate of adoption of inputs such as fertilizer. In Tanzania one reason for this may simply be the absence of local retailers, especially in more remote areas. Researchers are testing if their absence may be because of the costs of entering these markets or demand, with interventions targeted to each.

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Microenterprises, businesses with one to nine employees, in low-and middle-income countries face disadvantages compared to larger firms when it comes to sourcing inventory. Because of their smaller purchasing quantities, they may pay higher costs and have to travel frequently to restock.

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