By the year 2030, roughly two thirds of the world’s population living in extreme poverty could be in fragile settings. Innovations for Poverty Action’s Peace & Recovery Program (P&R) aims to improve outcomes for conflict- and crisis-affected populations by building the evidence base on reducing violence and fragility, promoting peace, and preventing, managing, and recovering from crisis. The program prioritizes studies that develop, illustrate, or test fundamental theories of peace, violence, and recovery, especially those that are highly policy-relevant, challenge common beliefs, pioneer innovative interventions, and produce evidence where little currently exists.
In Liberia, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and generating evidence to reduce poverty and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In 2016, the Liberian government delegated management of 93 randomly selected public schools to private providers. Providers received US$50 per pupil, on top of US$50 per pupil annual expenditure in control schools. After one academic year, students in outsourced schools scored 0.18σ higher in English and mathematics. We do not find heterogeneity in learning gains or enrollment by student characteristics, but there is significant heterogeneity across providers. While outsourcing appears to be a cost-effective way to use new resources to improve test scores, some providers engaged in unforeseen and potentially harmful behavior, complicating any assessment of welfare gains.
The Liberian Education Advancement Partnership (LEAP), originally known as Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL), began in 2016 with 93 public schools, and has since expanded to an additional 101 schools. The model is similar to charter schools in the United States or academies in the United Kingdom. LEAP schools remain public schools, charge no fees, and are staffed by public school teachers, but each school is managed by one of eight private contractors, including three for-profit companies and five charities which have taken responsibility for everything from teacher in-service training to fixing leaks in the roof.
While originally motivated by the government’s desire to improve test scores, the initiative has been dogged by the expulsion of students by private operators, an alleged coverup of sexual abuse of minors, and cost overruns.
This brief summarizes the results of a three-year randomized control trial, comparing outcomes for children in LEAP schools to those in regular government schools through March-May 2019. We highlight impacts on four dimensions: access, learning, sustainability, and child safety. Results vary enormously across operators, and the overall picture for some operators looks much better (or worse) than the average.
Read the full paper here.
Violence against women and children are closely linked global epidemics that have lifelong impacts on human welfare. This study examines the impact of adding cash transfers to a mentoring intervention targeted to girls in early adolescence. Girl Empower has positive impacts on some important outcomes, but is ineffective in protecting girls from sexual violence. Cash transfers, tied to attendance, enhanced program impacts on child marriage, teen pregnancy, and risky sexual behavior. Future research is needed to understand whether cash affects these outcomes directly or through an interaction effect.
Globally, violence against women is a leading cause of premature death and morbidity for women and almost one-third of women report experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV) or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their life. Yet rigorous evidence on scalable and effective ways to reduce IPV is limited, in part because measuring IPV is challenging. Current standards of practice for reducing gender-based violence are also relatively limited in scope, focusing mainly on changing gender norms. Designing and testing new approaches has the potential to yield more effective solutions. IPA’s Intimate Partner Violence Initiative, a partnership with the International Rescue Committee, exists to address these challenges. The initiative designs and tests innovative solutions to IPV, leverages existing research to identify factors that contribute to IPV and works to address methodological and measurement challenges in violence research and related fields. With our academic and implementing partners, IPA has identified a number of effective solutions, including mass media campaigns, coupling women’s economic empowerment with gender dialogue, and teaching secondary school students soft skills. Results from several initiative-supported studies are forthcoming. Further research will be needed to validate results in new contexts and at scale, and to design and evaluate new ideas.