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Can cash transfers promote employment and reduce poverty in rural Africa? Will lower youth unemployment and poverty reduce the risk of social instability? We experimentally evaluate one of Uganda's largest development programs, which provided thousands of young people nearly unconditional, unsupervised cash transfers to pay for vocational training, tools, and business start-up costs. Mid-term results after two years suggest four main findings. First, despite a lack of central monitoring and accountability, most youth invest the transfer in vocational skills and tools. Second, the economic impacts of the transfer are large: hours of non-household employment double and cash earnings increase by nearly 50% relative to the control group. We estimate the transfer yields a real annual return on capital of 35% on average. Third, the evidence suggests that poor access to credit is a major reason youth cannot start these vocations in the absence of aid. Much of the heterogeneity in impacts is unexplained, however, and is unrelated to conventional economic measures of ability, suggesting we have much to learn about the determinants of entrepreneurship. Finally, these economic gains result in modest improvements in social stability. Measures of social cohesion and community support improve mildly, by roughly 5 to 10%, especially among males, most likely because the youth becomes a net giver rather than a net taker in his kin and community network. Most strikingly, we see a 50% fall in interpersonal aggression and disputes among males, but a 50% increase among females. Neither change seems related to economic performance nor does social cohesion - a puzzle to be explored in the next phase of the study. These results suggest that increasing access to credit and capital could stimulate employment growth in rural Africa. In particular, unconditional and unsupervised cash transfers may be a more effective and cost-efficient form of large-scale aid than commonly believed. A second stage of data collection in 2012 will collect longitudinal economic impacts, additional data on political violence and behavior, and explore alternative theoretical mechanisms.

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Working Paper
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December 01, 2011
English

We report the results from a field experiment with a micro lender in Uganda to test the effectiveness of privately implemented incentives for loan repayment. Using a randomized control trial we measure the impact of three different treatments: Borrowers are either given a lump sum cash reward upon completion of the loan (equivalent to a 25% interest rate reduction on the current loan), a 25% reduction of the interest rate in the next loan the borrower takes from the bank, or a monthly text message reminder before the loan payment is due (SMS). We find that on average the size of the treatment effect is similar across all the treatment groups: borrowers in the treatment groups have a 7-9% increase in the probability of paying on time and the average days late drop by 2 days a month. The results suggest that simple text messages which help borrowers to better manage their repayment dates have similar effects as large changes in the cost of capital of 25% of interest. The impact of the cash back incentives are stronger for customers with smaller loans and less banking experience, the reduced future interest rate seemed to be most effective for customers with larger loans, while the SMS text messages were particularly effective for younger customers.

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Working Paper
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May 01, 2011
English

Charging small fees dramatically reduces access to important products for the poor.

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Brief
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April 01, 2011
English

Little is known about the impacts of military service on human capital and labor market outcomes due to an absence of data as well as sample selection: recruits are self-selected, screened, and selectively survive. We examine the case of Uganda, where rebel recruitment methods provide exogenous variation in conscription. Economic and educational impacts are widespread and persistent: schooling falls by nearly a year, skilled employment halves, and earnings drop by a third. Military service seems to be a poor substitute for schooling. Psychological distress is evident among those exposed to severe war violence and is not limited to ex-combatants.

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Published Paper
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November 01, 2010
English

This paper presents a randomized field experiment on community-based monitoring of public primary health care providers in Uganda. Through two rounds of village meetings, localized nongovernmental organizations encouraged communities to be more involved with the state of health service provision and strengthened their capacity to hold their local health providers to account for performance. A year after the intervention, treatment communities are more involved in monitoring the provider, and the health workers appear to exert higher effort to serve the community. We document large increases in utilization and improved health outcomes—reduced child mortality and increased child weight—that compare favorably to some of the more successful community-based intervention trials reported in the medical literature

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Published Paper
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May 01, 2009
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What is the political legacy of violent conflict? I present evidence for a link from past violence to increased political engagement among ex-combatants. The evidence comes from northern Uganda, where rebel recruitment generated quasi-experimental variation in who was conscripted by abduction. Survey data suggest that abduction leads to substantial increases in voting and community leadership, largely due to elevated levels of violence witnessed. Meanwhile, abduction and violence do not appear to affect non-political participation. These patterns are not easily explained by conventional theories of participation, including mobilization by elites, differential costs, and altruistic preferences. Qualitative interviews suggest that violence may lead to personal growth and political activation, a possibility supported by psychological research on the positive effects of traumatic events. While the generalizability of these results requires more evidence to judge, the findings challenge our understanding of political behavior and point to important new avenues of research.

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Working Paper
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March 01, 2009

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