Media Coverage
December 30, 2014

Malawi’s Business Times features IPA Researcher Jessica Goldberg, of the University of Maryland, and Chief Program Officer Jessica Kiessel, from a recent IPA conference on achieving better banking in Malawi. The article describes an IPA study conducted by Goldberg, along with Xavier Giné and Dean Yang designed to encourage farmers to save more of their harvest profits for the next planting. The project, described here, found that offering direct deposits, with sales profits to be automatically deposited in bank accounts significantly increased how much farmers saved, and subsequent...

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Nava Ashraf, Lori Beaman, Ariel BenYishay, Pascaline Dupas, Paul Fatch, Xavier Giné, Alaka Holla, Dean Karlan, Jeanne Lafortune, Jeremy Magruder, Margaret McConnell, Mushfiq Mobarak, Sendhil Mullainathan, Jonathan Robinson, Renos Vakis, Wesley Yin, Jonathan Zinman
December 10, 2014

  Development policy should be redesigned to reflect new insights about human behavior, according to a new World Bank report. The report calls on the development community to shift its agenda based on new insights in behavioral economics, and supports this proposal with findings from numerous IPA evaluations, including our work on commitment devices, reminders, and peer networks.   “Development economics and policy are due for a redesign,” according to World Development Report 2015: Mind, Society, and Behavior. “Whereas the first generation of development policy was based on the assumption...
Media Coverage
August 04, 2014

Two IPA projects examining agriculture in Ghana are featured in a recent article from Development News Africa. Find more information about the completed project here. 

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Günther Fink, Kelsey Jack
June 25, 2014

  Growing up in the California Bay Area with temperate weather year round, seasonality to me meant the difference between putting on a t-shirt or a light sweater in the morning. However, here in Eastern Zambia, seasonality affects a lot more than just clothes: the vast majority of people are subsistence farmers, the economy is largely agrarian, and, because agriculture relies on the rains, there is only one harvest each year.      Professors Gunther Fink, Kelsey Jack and Felix Masiye have worked on numerous nutrition, health, and environmental projects in Eastern Zambia. As they spent time...
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Clara Delavallade, Felipe Dizon
September 27, 2013

Editor’s note: This guest posting is by IPA intern Ali Ouedraogo.   Farmers in rural areas face many questions about their levels of productivity every year – how much fertilizer will they get to grow their crops? What emergency issues will they face, from health problems in their families to the volatility of rainfall? (See a chart of Burkina Faso’s rainfall from 1950-2007 here.) Managing these risks is not easy for farmers with little education or access to new information technology. In addition to these risks, the level of interest rates on savings and the costs and benefits of informal...
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Dean Karlan, Christopher Udry, Bram Thuysbaert, Lori Beaman
May 23, 2013

In Sub-Saharan Africa, most labor employed on the farm and in family enterprises is family labor. When we account for the time by family members on the farm and enterprise profits, we find that they are making less per hour than they would be making in the unskilled informal labor market. Our first reaction to this trend is to think along the lines of our well-known economic models – we assume that since people are given to be rational, why would they stay in a job where they are essentially losing money? Wouldn't it in fact be rational for these household members to work less on the farm...

Agriculture researcher in Kenya
Dean Karlan
January 10, 2013

 

I have an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (link may require subscription), where I call for some respect for the U.S. Congress’ Fiscal Cliff idea. Congress, back in 2011, couldn’t agree on a budget, so came up with a way to force the hand of its future self.  This idea of forcing one’s own future behavior dates back in our culture at least to Odysseus, who had his crew tie him to the ship’s mast so he wouldn’t be tempted by the sirens, and Cortés who burned his ships to show his army that there would be no going back.

Economists call this method of pushing your future self...

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Jonathan Robinson, Esther Duflo, Michael Kremer, Frank Schilbach
August 29, 2012

On a recent sunny Friday in Lilongwe, IPA Malawi hosted its first Research Discussion. These events provide policy-makers and practitioners with a forum to discuss IPA research projects, research findings, and other poverty research-related issues in Malawi. IPA affiliate Jon Robinson has been working in Western Kenya for over ten years, studying how to increase farm productivity through encouraging use of fertilizer and other agricultural inputs. This work has particular relevance for Malawi, where the government operates one of the most widespread agricultural subsidy programs in the world...
Dean Karlan, Robert Osei, Isaac Osei-akoto, Christopher Udry
August 17, 2012

The U.S. is experiencing the worst drought in a half century, and President Obama has announced new relief measures for farmers, in addition to the existing federal crop insurance plans.  While the heavily subsidized federal crop insurance plan has been criticized for shifting risk and therefore incentives, more interesting is that according to NPR’s Planet Money Podcast, there are other reasons crop insurance might deserve more scrutiny. They say the program has become so complicated, with federal subsidies added onto other federal subsidies, that it is too complex for policy makers to...

Esther Duflo, Michael Kremer, Jonathan Robinson
October 17, 2011

We first suggested “nudges for development” as a replacement for Malawi’s renowned, but costly, farm input subsidy program (FISP) back in December.  It looks like the idea could be even more relevant now that the program is shrinking.

We look to what research results can offer as a potential alternative– one that is sustainable and won’t be as costly for the Malawian government, which spent about 20 billion kwacha (currently US$121 million) on FISP during the 2010/11 fiscal year. This figure made up a sizeable 6.7% portion of Malawi’s total budget of 297 billion [Source: Malawi...

Media Coverage
September 13, 2011

Our Agricultural Insurance product for farmers in Northern Ghana featured in the Daily Graphic.Â

Dean Karlan, Jonathan Zinman, David McKenzie, Lori Beaman, Andrew Dillon, Karthik Muralidharan, Michael Kremer, Halsey Rogers, Marcel Fafchamps, Christopher Woodruff, Pascaline Dupas
June 27, 2011

Surprising Results of Microfinance

In a recent article in Science, Dean Karlan and Jonathan Zinman find that small loans in the Philippines helped households manage risk, but did nothing for business growth, and actually seemed to reduce subjective wellbeing.

 

Survey of Impact Assessments in Finance and Private Sector Development

David McKenzie synthesizes some of the lessons from recent rigorous impact evaluations in the field and makes some suggestions for new research.

 ...

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Nava Ashraf, Mushfiq Mobarak, Michael Kremer
January 27, 2011

Last Friday I attended the inaugural Impact Evaluation Conference at the Millennium Challenge Corporation. It was great hearing an exciting mix of new research fresh from leading academics, and ideas from various practitioners on the challenges of incorporating evaluation into public policy.

MCC Chief Economist Franck Wiebe opened with a robust defense of rigorous evaluation, noting that more than half of the projects in the MCC portfolio and subject to a rigorous quantitative evaluation (many, but not all of which are randomized). He also noted that common...

Xavier Giné
January 19, 2011

IPA Research Affiliate Xavier Gine has an article on the World Bank's finance blog discussing microinsurance for farmers. 

Ask small farmers in semiarid areas of Africa or India about the most important risk they face and they will tell you that it is drought. In 2003 an Indian insurance company and World Bank experts designed a potential hedging instrument for this type of risk—an insurance contract that pays off on the basis of the rainfall recorded at a local weather station.

Despite the potentially large welfare...

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Esther Duflo, Michael Kremer, Jonathan Robinson
December 22, 2010

Sadly there was no randomized evaluation, so we can't be sure. But there are good reasons to believe that Malawi's national fertilizer subsidy scheme has been successful in increasing agricultural production.  

One of the main concerns of critics is the sheer cost of the scheme. In Malawi around 9% of all government spending is going on the subsidy.

What if we could get similar results for next to nothing?

That is pretty much what Esther Duflo, Michael Kremer,...

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