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In today’s knowledge-based societies, understanding basic scientific concepts and the capacity to structure and solve scientific questions is more critical than ever. Accordingly, in this paper we test an innovative methodology for teaching science and environment in public primary schools where traditional (teacher centred) teaching was replaced with student centred activities using LEGO kits. We document positive and significant improvements of 0.18 standard deviations in standardised test scores. Such positive results are mainly concentrated within boys that were located above the median of baseline academic performance.

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Working Paper
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September 15, 2012
English

Policymakers and microfinance institutions (MFIs) often claim to target poor entrepreneurs who then invest loan proceeds in their businesses. Typically in nonresearch settings these claims are assessed using readily available but unverified self reports from client loan applications. Alternatively, independent surveyors could directly elicit how borrowers spent their loan proceeds. That too, however, could suffer from deliberate misreporting. We use data from the Peru and the Philippines in which independent surveyors elicited loan use both directly (i.e., by asking how individuals spent their loan proceeds) and indirectly (i.e., through a list-randomization technique that allows individuals to hide their answer from the surveyor). We find that direct elicitation under-reports the non-enterprise uses of loan proceeds.

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Published Paper
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August 01, 2011
English

Most academic and development policy discussions about microentrepreneurs focus on credit constraints and assume that subject to those constraints, the entrepreneurs manage their business optimally. Yet the self-employed poor rarely have any formal training in business skills. A growing number of microfinance organizations are attempting to build the human capital of microentrepreneurs in order to improve the livelihood of their clients and help further their mission of poverty alleviation. Using a randomized control trial, we measure the marginal impact of adding business training to a Peruvian group lending program for female microentrepreneurs. Treatment groups received thirty- to sixty-minute entrepreneurship training sessions during their normal weekly or monthly banking meeting over a period of one to two years. Control groups remained as they were before, meeting at the same frequency but solely for making loan and savings payments. We find little or no evidence of changes in key outcomes such as business revenue, profits, or employment. We nevertheless observed business knowledge improvements and increased client retention rates for the microfinance institution.

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Published Paper
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May 01, 2011
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Poverty, lack of female empowerment, and lack of education are major risk factors for childhood illness worldwide. Microcredit programs, by offering small loans to poor individuals, attempt to address the first two of these risk factors, poverty and gender disparity. They provide clients, usually women, with a means to invest in their businesses and support their families. This study investigates the health effects of also addressing the remaining risk factor, lack of knowledge about important health issues, through randomization of members of a microcredit organization to receive a health education module based on the World Health Organization’s Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) community intervention.

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Published Paper
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January 24, 2011
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Microfinance banks use group-based lending contracts to strengthen borrowers' incentives for diligence, but the contracts are vulnerable to free-riding and collusion. We systematically unpack microfinance mechanisms through ten experimental games played in an experimental economics laboratory in urban Peru. Risk-taking broadly conforms to theoretical predictions, with dynamic incentives strongly reducing risk-taking even without group-based mechanisms. Group lending increases risk-taking, especially for risk-averse borrowers, but this is moderated when borrowers form their own groups. Group contracts benefit borrowers by creating implicit insurance against investment losses, but the costs are borne by other borrowers, especially the most risk averse. Access the Briefing Note here. 

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Published Paper
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July 01, 2010
English

Several microfinance organizations have begun using a management tool, developed by Assessing the Impact of Microenterprise Services (AIMS) at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to assess impact. This tool recommends comparing veteran members to new members of a microcredit program, and attributes any difference to the impact of the program. The tool introduces a potential source of bias into estimates of impact by not instructing organizations to include program dropouts in their calculations. This paper uses data from a longitudinal study in Peru of Mibanco borrowers and non-borrowers to quantify some, but not all, of the biases in the cross-sectional approach. In these data, not including dropouts overestimates the impact of the credit program. Furthermore, we find that the sample composition shifted over the two years (i.e., the characteristics of those who join), introducing further bias into a cross-sectional impact assessment. Note that the “reestimates” here are themselves biased and thus not a recommended procedure. They are calculated merely to assess the attrition and sample composition biases in a cross-sectional approach that compares veterans to new entrants to assess impact.

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Working Paper
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August 01, 2009

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