In Zambia, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our research below offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Zambian poor.
We embed a field experiment in a nationwide recruitment drive for nurses in Zambia to test whether career benefits attract talent at the expense of prosocial motivation. We randomize the offer of career benefits at the recruitment stage. In line with common wisdom, treatment attracts less prosocial applicants. However, the trade-off only exists at low levels of talent; the marginal applicants in treatment are more talented and equally pro-social. These are hired, and they perform better at every step of the chain: they deliver more services, promote institutional childbirth, and reduce child malnutrition by 25% in the communities they serve.
Maternal mortality remains very high in many parts of the developing world, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Limited awareness of risk factors for maternal mortality such as maternal age and birth spacing may contribute to persistently high death rates, and public health campaigns to increase awareness of risk factors could help curb maternal mortality. Research shows that men, in particular, tend to underestimate maternal mortality risk, which may lead to their lower demand for contraception. Researchers worked in close collaboration with Zambia’s Ministry of Health and local NGOs to evaluate the impact of providing information to men and women about maternal mortality risk on knowledge of risk, demand for family planning, and maternal and child health outcomes. Preliminary results indicate that providing husbands with the information led to a reduction in fertility in the year that followed, while providing information to women had no comparable impact.
- Simple growth charts, which allowed parents to see if their child had a normal height for their age, did not reduce reduce growth deficits on average among the 547 children in the study, but among malnourished children, reduced stunting by 22 percentage points.
- In contrast, inviting caregivers to quarterly meetings to learn if their children had a normal height and weight and providing food supplements to malnourished children had no impact on rates of stunting.
- Neither home-based growth charts nor community-based monitoring were found to impact children’s cognitive development.
- Home-based growth charts appear to be a cost-effective tool to reduce physical growth deficits in this context. For every dollar that was invested in growth charts, children who otherwise would have been stunted gained an estimated $16 in additional lifetime wages.
Using a randomized control trial, we examine whether offering adolescent girls nonmaterial resources – specifically, negotiation skills – can improve educational outcomes in a low-income country. In so doing, we provide the first evidence on the effects of an intervention that increased non-cognitive, interpersonal skills during adolescence. Long-run administrative data shows that negotiation training significantly improved educational outcomes over the next three years. The training had greater effects than two alternative treatments (offering girls a safe physical space with female mentors and offering girls information about the returns to education), suggesting that negotiation skills themselves drive the effect. Further evidence from a lab-in-the-field experiment, which simulates parents’ educational investment decisions, and a midline survey suggests that negotiation skills improved girls’ outcomes by moving households’ human capital investments closer to the efficient frontier. This is consistent with an incomplete contracting model, where negotiation allows daughters to strategically cooperate with parents.