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Empirical social sciences rely heavily on surveys to measure human behavior. Previous studies show that such data are prone to random errors and systematic biases caused by social desirability, recall challenges, and the Hawthorne effect. Moreover, collecting high frequency survey data is often impossible, which is important for outcomes that fluctuate. Innovation in sensor technology might address these challenges. In this study, we use sensors to describe solar light adoption in Kenya and analyze the extent to which survey data are limited by systematic and random error. Sensor data reveal that households used lights for about 4 h per day. Frequent surveyor visits for a random sub-sample increased light use in the short term, but had no long-term effects. Despite large measurement errors in survey data, self-reported use does not differ from sensor measurements on average and differences are not correlated with household characteristics. However, mean-reverting measurement error stands out: households that used the light a lot tend to underreport, while households that used it little tend to overreport use. Last, general usage questions provide more accurate information than asking about each hour of the day. Sensor data can serve as a benchmark to test survey questions and seem especially useful for small-sample analyses.

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May 18, 2021
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Founded in 2019, IPA Nigeria develops applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our work in this brief offer promising insights into critical issues that affect the lives of the Nigerian poor.

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Brief
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March 01, 2021
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We partnered with the Ghanaian government to evaluate four methods of increasing achievement in schools with low average but heterogeneous student achievement. All methods focused on teaching at the learning level of the child—a remedial pull-out program with a teaching assistant, a remedial after school program with an assistant, an assistant teaching half the students, or teachers focusing on homogeneous groups of learners. Despite imperfect implementation, student learning increased across all four more so for female students, and gains persisted after the program ended. Fidelity of implementation decreased over time for the assistants but increased for the teachers.

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Working Paper
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March 01, 2021
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IPA Peru partnered with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Ministries of Education in Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Peru to study the effects of COVID-19 on educational systems in Latin America. In Peru, IPA conducted 4,939 surveys representing 2.3 percent of total pre-school and kindergarten enrollment in the country using two recruitment modes: a phone survey and a self-administered survey recruited using WhatsApp. Surveys that target caregivers of school-age children were more likely to reach women (respondents who identified as female) than men, but the way in which sample members are recruited can have a big impact on how large a majority women make up. In this case, with WhatsApp we reached an even higher share of women (91 percent versus 9 percent men) than phone (72 percent women versus 28 percent men). WhatsApp respondents were also younger. The research team hypothesized that the recruitment mode and administrative list construction combined to produce substantively different samples of parents.

Authors: Juan Manuel Hernández-Agramonte, Joaquín Armas, Kelly MontañoOlga NamenRayssa Ruiz EliasCarlos Urrutia

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Phone Survey Methods Resource
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January 25, 2021
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Professional advancement often depends on subjective performance reviews, especially in developing countries where objective data on performance may not be available. But subjective reviews may be susceptible to personal biases based on characteristics like gender. To better understand this in the education sector in Ghana, researchers compared both principals’ reviews and teacher self-assessments of effectiveness to an objective measure:  increases in student test scores. Female teachers were objectively more effective based on increases in student test scores. However, principals were 11 percentage points less likely to rate a female teacher as effective compared to a male teacher. These findings contribute to the evidence on gender biases in subjective assessments and related barriers faced by women in labor markets in developing countries.

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January 06, 2021
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Uruguay has increased its preschool enrollment, reaching almost universal coverage among four- and five-year-olds. However, more than a third of children enrolled in preschool programs have insufficient attendance, with absenteeism higher in schools in lower socioeconomic areas and among younger preschool children. This paper presents the results of a behavioral intervention to increase preschool attendance nationwide. Most previous experiments using behavioral sciences have looked at the impact of nudging parents on attendance and learning for school-age children; this is the first experiment looking at both attendance and child development for preschool children. It is also the first behavioral intervention to use a government mobile app to send messages to parents of preschool children. The intervention had no average treatment effect on attendance, but results ranged widely across groups. Attendance by children in the 25th 75th percentiles of absenteeism rose by 0.320.68 days over the course of the 13-week intervention, and attendance among children in remote areas increased by 1.48 days. Among all children in the study, the intervention also increased language development by 0.10 standard deviations, an impact similar to that of very labor-intensive programs, such as home visits. The intervention had stronger effects on children in the remote provinces of Uruguay, increasing various domains of child development by about 0.33 to 0.37 standard deviations. Behavioral interventions seeking to reduce absenteeism and raise test scores usually nudge parents on both the importance of attendance and ways to improve child development.

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December 11, 2020
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To support government partners’ initiatives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, IPA launched the Research for Effective COVID-19 Responses (RECOVR) Survey, a rapid response panel survey it has conducted in nine countries including the Philippines. The RECOVR survey aims to directly inform key government partners on the health, economic, educational, and social ramifications of the pandemic.

This brief summarizes and presents key education results from the RECOVR Philippines Survey (implemented June 18-July 1, 2020 that reached 1,389 respondents) to provide decision-makers of the Department of Education with rigorous evidence in support of the implementation of the Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP) and policy recommendations based on the results. Key policy questions to consider are: 1) how can policymakers ensure that children do not fall behind in their education, and 2) how can policymakers help students be engaged in distance learning?

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November 16, 2020
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In sub-Saharan Africa, wage jobs are rare, and a vast majority of young people are engaged in low-productivity occupations. Many governments attempt to upgrade traditional apprenticeships to help improve youth opportunities for productive employment. There is limited evidence on the direct and indirect effects of these formal apprenticeships. This study evaluated the impacts of an apprenticeship program subsidizing formal apprentices placed in firms and offering them theoretical training.

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August 26, 2020
French

En Afrique subsaharienne, les emplois salariés sont rares, et une grande majorité de jeunes occupent des emplois à faible productivité. De nombreux gouvernements tentent de moderniser les apprentissages traditionnels pour aider à améliorer les opportunités d’emploi productif des jeunes. Il existe peu de données sur les effets directs et indirects de ces apprentissages formels. Cette étude a évalué les impacts d’un programme d’apprentissage subventionnant les apprentis formels placés dans les entreprises et leur offrant une formation théorique.

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August 26, 2020
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Se ha encontrado que la educación temprana tiene un efecto positivo sobre el hecho de que los estudiantes elijan cursos de matemáticas o ciencias en su curso educativo posterior o en sus elecciones profesionales. En Colombia, los investigadores se encuentran realizando un experimento aleatorio controlado para medir el impacto de un programa de educación preescolar basado en aprendizaje interactivo multimedia sobre las habilidades para las matemáticas y las ciencias de los niños, sobre sus estereotipos de género y de raza y sobre las creencias de los niños, los profesores y los padres. 

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June 15, 2020
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This study reports results from a randomized evaluation of a mandatory six-month internet-based sexual education course implemented across public junior high schools in 21 Colombian cities. Six months after finishing the course, the study finds a 0.4 standard deviation improvement in knowledge, a 0.2 standard deviation improvement in attitudes, and a 55 percent increase in the likelihood of redeeming vouchers for condoms as a result of taking the course. The data provide no evidence of spillovers to control classrooms within treatment schools. However, the analysis provides compelling evidence that treatment effects are enhanced when a larger share of a student’s friends also takes the course. The low cost of the online course along with the effectiveness the study documents suggests this technology is a viable alternative for improving sexual education in middle-income countries.

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Published Paper
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June 03, 2020
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Children often walk long distances to get to school in rural areas of developing countries, which contributes to high rates of absenteeism, particularly for girls. Can providing girls with bicycles to travel to school help address this problem? In rural Zambia, researchers partnered with World Bicycle Relief (WBR) to evaluate the impact of providing girls with bicycles to travel to school. The evaluation measured the impacts of the program on girls’ educational attainment and empowerment outcomes. Girls were eligible for the program if they were in 5th, 6th, or 7th grade and walked at least three kilometers to school.

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April 30, 2020
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As public resources available for investment in the pre-primary sector are limited, a good understanding of current provision, and how government can best work with the non-state sector, is important to determine how to target limited resources most effectively. With a rise in public-private partnerships (PPP) in education in developing countries, the timing is right to explore how the Government of Côte d’Ivoire can leverage the non-state sector more strategically to achieve its objectives in the pre-primary sector. The Ministère de l’Education Nationale, de l'Enseignement Technique et de la Formation Professionnelle (MENETFP) requested EPG’s support in 2018 to inform national-level policy discussions by:

(i) improving MENETFP’s knowledge base and understanding of the quality of current pre-primary providers in selected areas of Abidjan and Bouaké and,

(ii) based on this information; develop a PPP pilot to improve pre-primary education access and quality in alignment with current initiatives. 

In collaboration with the MENETFP, EPG designed the study and data collection instruments and contracted Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) to undertake the data collection and analysis. IPA’s analysis is outlined in chapters 2, 3 and 4. Other content may not reflect the views of IPA. The study complements existing research across Côte d’Ivoire by taking a deeper dive to understand provision specifically in the DRENs (Directions Régionales de l’Education Nationale) of Abidjan 3 and Bouaké 2. This choice was driven by (i) the MENETFP’s interest in focusing on the most disadvantaged children in urban and peri-urban areas and; (ii) the availability of different pre-primary providers for comparison purposes. 

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Report
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April 29, 2020
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The burden of food insecurity is large in Sub-Saharan Africa, yet the evidence-base on the relation between household food insecurity and early child development is extremely limited. Furthermore, available research mostly relies on cross-sectional data, limiting the quality of existing evidence. We use longitudinal data on preschool-aged children and their households in Ghana to investigate how being in a food insecure household was associated with early child development outcomes across three years. Household food insecurity was measured over three years using the Household Hunger Score. Households were first classified as “ever food insecure” if they were food insecure at any round. We also assessed persistence of household food insecurity by classifying households into three categories: (i) never food insecure; (ii) transitory food insecurity, if the household was food insecure only in one wave; and (iii) persistent food insecurity, if the household was food insecure in two or all waves. Child development was assessed across literacy, numeracy, social-emotional, short-term memory, and self-regulation domains. Controlling for baseline values of each respective outcome and child and household characteristics, children from ever food insecure households had lower literacy, numeracy and short-term memory. When we distinguished between transitory and persistent food insecurity, transitory spells of food insecurity predicted decreased numeracy (β = -0.176, 95% CI: -0.317; -0.035), short-term memory (β = -0.237, 95% CI: -0.382; -0.092), and self-regulation (β = -0.154, 95% CI: -0.326; 0.017) compared with children from never food insecure households. By contrast, children residing in persistently food insecure households had lower literacy scores (β = -0.243, 95% CI: -0.496; 0.009). No gender differences were detected. Results were broadly robust to the inclusion of additional controls. This novel evidence from a Sub-Saharan African country highlights the need for multi-sectoral approaches including social protection and nutrition to support early child development

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April 03, 2020
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Participatory development is designed to mitigate problems of political bias in pre-existing local government but also interacts with it in complex ways. Using a five-year randomized controlled study in 97 clusters of villages (194 villages) in Ghana, we analyze the effects of a major participatory development program on participation in, leadership of and investment by pre-existing political institutions, and on households’ overall socioeconomic well-being. Applying theoretical insights on political participation and redistributive politics, we consider the possibility of both cross-institutional mobilization and displacement, and heterogeneous effects by partisanship. We find the government and its political supporters acted with high expectations for the participatory approach: treatment led to increased participation in local governance and reallocation of resources. But the results did not meet expectations, resulting in a worsening of socioeconomic wellbeing in treatment versus control villages for government supporters. This demonstrates international aid’s complex distributional consequences. 

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Working Paper
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April 02, 2020

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