Remittances are one of the largest sources of financial flows to low- and middle-income countries, and researchers and decision-makers are interested in ways to increase their development impact. One promising approach is enabling migrants to label the remittances that they send home for a specific purpose, such as education or business activities.

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In Ghana, many traditional credit providers like banks and microfinance institutions are wary of extending credit to small-scale farmers, fearful that they will inherit the risks inherent to farming; with limited access to traditional, formal credit, many farmers must rely on costly, informal loans. Researchers are evaluating the impact of an innovative mobile phone-based digital finance program on loan repayment rates, investment decisions, savings, and use of other financial services, as we

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Many Americans have accumulated staggering debt loads, limiting their ability to achieve financial stability. While some nonprofit and financial institutions have programs designed to help borrowers repay and reduce debt with personalized debt management plans, many people drop out of these programs in the first year.

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Many poor women around the world rely on sexual partners for the purpose of financial assistance, particularly when faced with financial setbacks. Providing these women with appropriate financial tools has the potential to reduce transactional sex as a coping strategy and reduce exposure to sexually transmitted infections.

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Many farming households in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to formal credit and struggle to make ends meet between harvests. In a previous evaluation, researchers found that increasing access to credit during the hungry season helped farming households in rural Zambia allocate labor more efficiently, leading to improvements in productivity and well-being.

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In Pakistan, take-up and use of mobile money accounts has been relatively low despite the fact that mobile money is potentially less expensive, more convenient, and can offer a wider range of financial services than many other payment channels. Researchers aimed to conduct a randomized evaluation investigating the impact of incentivizing mobile account holders to refer their friends or relatives to use mobile money on the take-up and sustained usage of mobile money.

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Digital loans, through mobile platforms such as Kenya’s M-Pesa, may be a way to increase access to affordable credit. Researchers used a regression discontinuity design to measure the impact of M-Shwari, a short-term savings and loan service run through M-Pesa, on access to credit, resilience, and savings of Kenyan households. Results show M-Shwari increased access to credit from any source.

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Low-income women disproportionately lack access to credit in developing countries, often because they are less likely to have credit histories, property rights, or formal earnings. Researchers are partnering with a bank and a mobile money operator in the Dominican Republic to evaluate the impact of credit scoring models designed specifically for women on access to credit.

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The adoption of mobile technology and mobile internet has expanded rapidly in Kenya in recent years, facilitated by increased access to mobile broadband and the spread of low-cost smartphones and tablets. Researchers are partnering with a leading mobile network operator to investigate how the internet affects financial and economic outcomes, particularly for women.

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Despite the rapid global expansion of mobile phone coverage, many isolated, rural communities do not have connectivity. In the Philippines, researchers are evaluating the impact of installing cellular towers and providing free SIM cards for mobile phone use on communication activity and frequency, social ties, access to information, migration and labor market outcomes, bargaining power and market prices, and income and employment decisions. 

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Limited knowledge of financial concepts is associated with suboptimal financial behavior such as low rate of formal savings, poor usage of bank accounts, amongst others. Well-designed financial education programs have the potential to improve financial knowledge and behavior, leading to improvements in wellbeing.

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Recent evidence has demonstrated the difficulty of stimulating entrepreneurship and reducing poverty through microcredit. In rural Morocco, where microcredit take-up is relatively low, researchers are conducting a randomized evaluation to test the impact of improved microcredit loan design on its take-up, as well as the welfare and business conditions of borrowers.

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Many pregnant women face financial barriers to accessing safe delivery services, including high costs associated with transportation to a health facility and materials needed for a safe delivery. In Zambia, researchers are piloting a set of home-based and village savings group interventions focused on empowering pregnant women to save in order to better access their preferred safe delivery services.

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Households living in extreme poverty face a wide range of challenges that limit their ability to make productive investments or cope with unpredictable shocks such as droughts or disease. Productive inclusion programs combine cash transfers with trainings and other support to increase household earnings while also helping households withstand and recover from shocks.

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Identifying eligible beneficiaries for social programs, a process known as “targeting,” can be a challenging and costly process for development and humanitarian organizations. Many widely-used targeting strategies were developed for rural environments and may not work as well in dynamic and densely populated urban centers. One potential new technique is “decentralized targeting,” a process that relies on information from socially knowledgeable members of a community.

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