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Numerosos gobiernos en países de ingresos medios y bajos, como Brasil y México, han adoptado programas de transferencias monetarias condicionadas (TMC) como una red de protección social, pero la mayoría de los beneficiarios de estas transferencias tienen poca o nula experiencia en el manejo de productos financieros formales. Para contribuir a cerrar la brecha respecto a la capacidad financiera de los beneficiarios del programa de transferencias condicionadas del Gobierno de Colombia, Fundación Capital diseñó LISTA, un programa basado en la noción de "liberar la educación financiera" del aula mediante el uso de aplicaciones diseñadas para usarse en tabletas. Los investigadores colaboraron con la Fundación Capital y el Gobierno de Colombia para realizar una evaluación aleatoria (RCT por sus siglas en inglés) de LISTA para estudiar su impacto sobre el conocimiento y el comportamiento financiero. LISTA tuvo impactos positivos significativos en el conocimiento financiero, las actitudes, las prácticas y el desempeño de los participantes. Muchos de estos impactos persistieron incluso después de dos años, mientras que algunos disminuyeron con el tiempo. El impacto a largo plazo en la participación en el sistema financiero formal fue limitado, lo que sugiere que la educación financiera por sí sola puede no es suficiente para aumentar la inclusión financiera formal.

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September 22, 2019
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Can greater control over earned income incentivize women to work and influence gender norms? In collaboration with Indian government partners, we provided rural women with individual bank accounts and randomly varied whether their wages from a public workfare program were directly deposited into these accounts or into the male household head’s account (the status quo). Women in a random subset of villages were also trained on account use. In the short run, relative to women just offered bank accounts, those who also received direct deposit and training increased their labor supply in the public and private sectors. In the long run, gender norms liberalized: women who received direct deposit and training became more accepting of female work, and their husbands perceived fewer social costs to having a wife who works. These effects were concentrated in households with otherwise lower levels of, and stronger norms against, female work. Women in these households also worked more in the long run and became more empowered. These patterns are consistent with models of household decision-making in which increases in bargaining power from greater control over income interact with, and influence, gender norms.

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Working Paper
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September 01, 2019
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Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is a research and policy non-profit that discovers and promotes effective solutions to global poverty problems. IPA brings together researchers and decision-makers to design, rigorously evaluate, and refine these solutions and their applications, ensuring that the evidence created is used to improve the lives of the world’s poor. Since our founding in 2002, IPA has worked with over 575 leading academics to conduct over 650 evaluations in 51 countries. Future growth will be concentrated in focus countries, such as Myanmar, where we have local and international staff, established relationships with government, NGOs, and the private sector, and deep knowledge of local issues.

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July 08, 2019
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There is little evidence on how the large market for credit score improvement products affects consumers or credit market efficiency. A randomized encouragement design on a standard credit builder loan (CBL) identifies null average effects on whether consumers have a credit score and the score itself, with important heterogeneity: those with loans outstanding at baseline fare worse, those without fare better. Selection, treatment effect, and prediction models indicate the CBL reveals valuable information to markets, inducing positive selection and making credit histories more precise, while keeping credit scores’ predictive power intact. With modest targeting changes, CBLs could work as intended.

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July 01, 2019
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For the most vulnerable, even small negative shocks can have significant short- and long-term impacts. Few interventions that improve shock-coping are widely available in sub-Saharan Africa. Researchers test whether individual pre- cautionary savings can mitigate a shock-coping behavior with potentially neg- ative spillovers: transactional sex. Sex for money is a common shock-coping behavior in sub-Saharan Africa and is believed to be a leading driver of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In a field experiment in Kenya, researchers randomly assigned half of 600+ participating, vulnerable women to a savings intervention that consists of opening a mobile banking savings account labeled for emergency expenses and individual goals. The intervention led to an increase in total mobile savings, reductions in transactional sex as a risk-coping response to shocks, and a decrease in symptoms of sexually transmitted infections.

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Working Paper
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June 05, 2019
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Financial knowledge is critical for making sound decisions that foster financial health and protect consumers from predation. A widely-used tool for building this capability is financial education. Yet evidence suggests that conventional approaches which teach concepts in classroom-style settings are ineffective and expensive at scale, especially for lower-income users. More recent findings indicate that customizing financial education to the needs, interests, and location of participants may increase impact, though doing so in a cost-effective and scalable way remains challenging. This randomized evaluation of a tablet-based financial education program with mostly female recipients of a conditional cash transfer (CCT) program in Colombia offers evidence for how to design and scale an effective digital-based financial education program. Results indicate that the LISTA Initiative had significant positive impacts on financial knowledge, attitudes, practices, and performance, increasing for poorer, less educated, and more rural populations, with users exhibiting increased financial health over two years later. Critical mechanisms included well-designed content and a social learning component. Yet the longer-term impact on formal financial inclusion was limited, suggesting the possible benefits of combining supply-side solutions with financial education interventions.

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June 01, 2019

We test whether the provision of multiple labeled savings accounts affects savings decisions and downstream outcomes in a field experiment with 481 entrepreneurs in urban Malawi. Treatment respondents received either one or multiple savings boxes, while a control group received nothing. Multiple accounts increased savings in treatment accounts by about 30%. Savings boxes had sizeable effects on a number of outcomes, including farming decisions, household expenditures, land purchases, credit extended to customers, and interpersonal transfers. However, we find no evidence that multiple accounts had larger downstream effects than single accounts.

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Working Paper
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May 17, 2019
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Working with a private bank in Ghana, this study examines the impacts of a commitment savings product designed to help clients taking repeated overdrafts break their debt cycles. Overall, the product significantly increased savings with the bank without increasing overdrafts. However, after accounting for other sources of savings, the study finds that clients with above-median baseline overdraft histories do not accrue new savings during the commitment period. Rather, they draw down other savings to offset the committed amount and take on new debt. In contrast, individuals with below-median overdraft histories significantly increase savings during and after the commitment period.

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April 24, 2019
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Developing country lenders are taking advantage of fintech tools to create fully digital loans on mobile phones. Using administrative and survey data, we study the take up and impacts of one of the most popular digital loan products in the world, M-Shwari in Kenya. While 34% of those eligible for a loan take it, the loan does not substitute for other credit. The loans improve household resilience: households are 6.3 percentage points less likely to forego expenses due to negative shocks. We conclude that while digital loans improve financial access and resilience, they are not a panacea for greater credit market failures.

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February 01, 2019
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Low-income households around the world are particularly vulnerable to shocks, but also the least prepared when a shock hits. The effects of climate change, including floods, droughts, and other weather-related disasters, are adding another layer of risk for already vulnerable households. In this context, it is increasingly important that poor households build resilience—that they strengthen their ability to mitigate, cope, and recover from shocks and stresses without compromising their future welfare. Evidence suggests well-designed financial products and services can play a role in increasing low-income families’ resilience by helping them be prepared for risk, reduce risk, increase investment in the face of risk, and respond when a shock occurs. Yet the role that financial products and services can play in increasing resilience, as well as the most effective design and delivery mechanisms toward that end, is not fully understood. This paper reviews the evidence on financial inclusion and resilience to inform policymakers on effective strategies and makes the call for more research on this timely and relevant topic.

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Brief
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January 14, 2019
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En Colombia, así como en muchos otros países, los trabajadores enfrentan muchas barreras para ahorrar para la jubilación. La situación es mucho peor para los trabajadores informales, que representan alrededor del 65 por ciento de la fuerza laboral total en Colombia. Con el fin de investigar formas de aumentar las contribuciones voluntarias para el retiro, Innovations for Poverty Action en colaboración con Colpensiones, el administrador público del Régimen de Prima Media con Prestación Definida, y el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo llevará a cabo tres etapas de evaluaciones aleatorias rápidas - RFT (Rapid Fire Testing) que medirán el impacto de los mensajes de texto en los hábitos de ahorro para el retiro. En México, de forma paralela, los investigadores están implementando un estudio similar adaptado al contexto nacional.

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January 08, 2019
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We evaluate an intervention to raise young women’s economic empowerment in Sierra Leone, where women frequently experience sexual violence and face multiple economic disadvantages. The intervention provides them with a protective space (a club) where they can …nd support, receive information on health/reproductive issues and vocational training. Unexpectedly, the post-baseline period coincided with the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Our analysis leverages quasi-random across-village variation in the severity of Ebola-related disruption, and random assignment of villages to the intervention to document the impact of the Ebola outbreak on the economic lives of 4 700 women tracked over the crisis, and any ameliorating role played by the intervention. In highly disrupted control villages, the crisis leads younger girls to spend signi…cantly more time with men, out-of-wedlock pregnancies rise, and as a result, they experience a persistent 16pp drop in school enrolment post-crisis. These adverse e¤ects are almost entirely reversed in treated villages because the intervention enables young girls to allocate time away from men, preventing out-of-wedlock pregnancies and enabling them to re-enrol in school post-crisis. In treated villages, the unavailability of young women leads some older girls to use transactional sex as a coping strategy. The intervention causes them to increase contraceptive use so this does not translate into higher fertility. Our analysis pinpoints the mechanisms through which the severity of the aggregate shock impacts the economic lives of young women, and shows how interventions in times of crisis can interlink outcomes across younger and older cohorts. J

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Working Paper
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December 01, 2018
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IPA Zambia is pleased to share its Q1-Q3 bulletin from 2018. This bulletin highlights IPA Zambia's participation in research dissemination and conference events, including the Evidence for Impact Symposium and the Third National Food and Nutrition Summit.

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November 19, 2018
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In Rwanda, 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 work below offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Rwandan poor. 

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October 17, 2018
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Commitment products can remedy self-control problems. However, imperfect knowledge about their preferences may (discontinuously) lead individuals to select into incentive-incompatible commitments, which reduce their welfare. I conduct a field experiment where low-income individuals were randomly offered a new installment-savings commitment account. Individuals chose a personalized savings plan and a default penalty themselves. A majority appears to choose a harmful contract: While the average effect on bank savings is large, 55 percent of clients default, and incur monetary losses. A possible explanation is that the chosen penalties were too low (the commitment was too weak) to overcome clients’ self-control problems. Measures of sophisticated hyperbolic discounting correlate negatively with take-up and default, and positively with penalty choices – consistent with theoretical predictions that partial sophisticates adopt weak commitments and then default, while full sophisticates are more cautious about committing, but better able to choose incentive-compatible contracts.

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October 01, 2018

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