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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

We experimentally test the impact of expanding access to basic bank accounts in Uganda, Malawi, and Chile. Over two years, 17 percent, 10 percent, and 3 percent of treatment individuals made five or more deposits, respectively. Average monthly deposits for them were at the 79th, 91st, and 96th percentiles of baseline savings. Survey data show no clearly discernible intention–to–treat effects on savings or any downstream outcomes. This suggests that policies merely focused on expanding access to basic accounts are unlikely to improve welfare noticeably since impacts, even if present, are likely small and diverse.

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Working Paper
Date:
October 31, 2016
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Poor public service provision and government accountability is commonplace in low-income countries. Although mobile phone–based platforms have emerged to allow constituents to report service deficiencies to government officials, they have been plagued by low citizen participation. We question whether low participation may root in low political efficacy to politically participate. In the context of a text message–reporting platform in Uganda, we investigate the impact of adding efficacy-boosting language to mobilization texts—(a) citizen name personalization and (b) politician encouragement— on citizens’ willingness to report service deficiencies to politicians via text messages. Both treatments, designed to increase internal and external efficacy, respectively, have a large, positive effect on participation. The results are driven by traditionally less internally efficacious constituents (females) and less externally efficacious constituents (those represented by opposition party members), respectively.

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Published Paper
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September 23, 2016
English

Systematic reviews of existing evidence show promising effects of community health worker (CHW) programs as a strategy to improve child survival, but also highlight challenges faced by CHW programs, including insufficient incentives to deliver timely and appropriate services. We assessed the effect of an incentivized community health delivery program in Uganda on all-cause under-five mortality. A cluster-randomized controlled trial, embedded within the scale-up of a new community health delivery program, was undertaken in 214 clusters in 10 districts in Uganda. In the intervention clusters micro entrepreneur-based community health promoters (CHPs) were deployed over a three-year period (2011-2013). On average 38 households were surveyed in each cluster at the end of 2013, for a total sample size of 8,119 households. The primary study outcome was all-cause under-five mortality (U5MR). U5MR was reduced by 27% (adjusted RR 0.73, 95% CI 0.58-0.93).

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Working Paper
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September 01, 2016
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In a field experiment in Uganda, we find that demand after a free distribution of three health products is lower than after a sale distribution. This contrasts with work on insecticide-treated bed nets, highlighting the importance of product characteristics in determining pricing policy. We put forward a model to illustrate the potential tension between two important factors, learning and anchoring, and then test this model with three products selected specifically for their variation in the scope for learning. We find the rank order of shifts in demand matches with the theoretical prediction, although the differences are not statistically significant.

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Working Paper
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June 01, 2016
English
While improving government performance is a key challenge for state development, we still know little about what factors affect citizens' toleration of poor performance by government officials. This paper argues that taxation is a significant predictor of citizens' demands, detailing and formalizing a micro-level theory of how taxation affects citizens' preferences over accountability. By taking away earned income, taxation pushes loss-averse citizens below their reference point, increasing the utility citizens lose from non-accountable government behavior and making them more likely to enact costly sanctions against officials. Laboratory experiments, conducted in Uganda, find that in a single-shot game taxation increases citizens' willingness to punish leaders by 12% overall, and by 30% among the group who has the most experience paying taxes in Uganda. Additional experiments confirm that this effect is driven by the loss aversion mechanism, and a survey experiment demonstrates that taxation increases politically-active Ugandans' willingness to punish corruption.
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Working Paper
Date:
May 01, 2016

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