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Objectives. To evaluate whether text-messaging programs can improve reproductive health among adolescent girls in low- and middle-income countries.

Methods. We conducted a cluster–randomized controlled trial among 756 female students aged 14 to 24 years in Accra, Ghana, in 2014. We randomized 38 schools to unidirectional intervention (n = 12), interactive intervention (n = 12), and control (n = 14). The unidirectional intervention sent participants text messages with reproductive health information. The interactive intervention engaged adolescents in text-messaging reproductive health quizzes. The primary study outcome was reproductive health knowledge at 3 and 15 months. Additional outcomes included self-reported pregnancy and sexual behavior. Analysis was by intent-to-treat.

Results. From baseline to 3 months, the unidirectional intervention increased knowledge by 11 percentage points (95% confidence interval [CI] = 7, 15) and the interactive intervention by 24 percentage points (95% CI = 19, 28), from a control baseline of 26%. Although we found no changes in reproductive health outcomes overall, both unidirectional (odds ratio [OR] = 0.14; 95% CI = 0.03, 0.71) and interactive interventions (OR = 0.15; 95% CI = 0.03, 0.86) lowered odds of self-reported pregnancy for sexually active participants.

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Published Paper
Date:
December 20, 2016
English

Targeted interventions that sustainably improve the lives of the poor will be a critical component in eliminating extreme poverty by 2030. The poorest households tend to be physically and socially isolated and face disadvantages across multiple dimensions, which makes moving out of extreme poverty challenging and costly. This paper compares the cost-effectiveness of three strands of anti-poverty social protection interventions by reviewing 30 livelihood development programs, 11 lump-sum unconditional cash transfers, and seven graduation programs. All the selected graduation initiatives focused on the extreme poor, while the livelihood development and cash transfer programs targeted a broader set of beneficiaries. Impacts on annual household consumption (or on income when consumption data were not available) per dollar spent were used to benchmark cost-effectiveness across programs. Among all 48 programs reviewed, lump-sum cash transfers were found to have the highest benefit-cost ratio, though there are very few lump-sum cash transfer programs that serve the extreme poor or measure long-term impacts. Livelihood programs that targeted the extreme poor had much lower benefit-cost ratios. Graduation programs are more cost-effective than the livelihood programs that targeted the extreme poor and measured long-term impacts (i.e., at least one year after end of interventions). More evidence is needed, especially on long-term impacts of lump-sum cash transfers to the extreme poor, to make better comparisons among the three types of programs for sustainable reduction of extreme poverty.

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Report
Date:
December 13, 2016
English

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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Working Paper
Date:
July 19, 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, finding ways to address weather risk remains a priority for agricultural development. Some possibilities are improving index quality, providing subsidized insurance, selling insurance to institutions, and exploring other risk-mitigating technologies, such as irrigation and stress-tolerant crops.

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Brief
Date:
March 24, 2016
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A multifaceted livelihood program that provided ultra-poor households with a productive asset, training, regular coaching, access to savings, and consumption support led to large and lasting impacts on their standard of living across a diverse set of contexts and implementing partners.

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Brief
Date:
September 08, 2015
English

We present results from six randomized control trials of an integrated approach to improve livelihoods among the very poor. The approach combines the transfer of a productive asset with consumption support, training, and coaching plus savings encouragement and health education and/or services. Results from the implementation of the same basic program, adapted to a wide variety of geographic and institutional contexts and with multiple implementing partners, show statistically significant cost-effective impacts on consumption (fueled mostly by increases in self-employment income) and psychosocial status of the targeted households. The impact on the poor households lasted at least a year after all implementation ended. It is possible to make sustainable improvements in the economic status of the poor with a relatively short-term intervention.

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Published Paper
Date:
May 15, 2015

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