Lessons from randomized evaluations on managing and preventing crime, violence, and conflict
What are the most promising strategies for reducing crime, violence, and conflict? The past decade has seen a dramatic expansion in the experimental literature designed to help answer this question. Moving beyond evaluations of individual programs, increasingly, these studies are striving to test broader hypotheses about how programs work (i.e. what are the key program components driving change) and to generate insights into human behavior (i.e. why individuals may be motivated to act in certain ways).
This evidence review, prepared by staff at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) ) for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), offers a broad review of the expansion of this literature and seeks to capture some of the emerging insights from across these studies. The review has been prepared as part of J-PAL and IPA’s Governance, Crime and Conflict Initiative, a £15- million investment by FCDO launched in 2017 to produce new research on effective policies to promote peace and good governance, reduce crime, and support individuals and communities recovering from conflict.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, scholars and journalists have spread anecdotes of gangs and criminal organizations coming to the aid of citizens, governing in place of the state. Researchers studied if gangs respond to COVID-19 in Medellín. Despite the headlines, gang involvement in pandemic response is exceptional and mostly idiosyncratic. Surveying every low- and middle-income neighborhood in Medellin, they find that most of the support for civilians comes from state authorities and not from gangs
Medellín tiene unas estructuras de crimen organizado altamente jerárquicas y estructuradas. Con el objetivo de comprender cómo está organizada y cómo funciona esta estructura, durante los últimas tres años Innovations for Poverty Action, la Universidad de Chicago y la Universidad EAFIT han recolectado información sobre ella. Esto se ha hecho a través de entrevistas con integrantes de diferentes comunidades de la ciudad. En este documento se presentan los hallazgos de este trabajo.
In partnership with the City of Medellín and community officials, EDI researchers co-designed a program of intensified government outreach and service delivery to test the impact of increased municipal governance on the roles and legitimacy of local gangs and the state. To design the program, researchers conducted interviews with more than 30 members of 19 criminal organizations over two years. Researchers combined findings from those interviews with administrative crime data and with surveys of city residents and businesses to learn about the organization and political economy of organized crime in Medellín. This EDI Policy Brief provides a summary of those findings to date
We report the results of a randomized ﬁeld experiment in the Philippines on the eﬀects of two common anti-vote-selling strategies involving eliciting promises from voters. An invitation to promise not to vote-sell is taken up by most respondents, reduces vote-selling, and has a larger eﬀect in races with smaller vote-buying payments. The treatment reduces vote-selling in the smallest-stakes election by 10.9 percentage points. Inviting voters to promise to “vote your conscience” despite accepting money is signiﬁcantly less eﬀective. The results are consistent with a behavioral model in which voters are only partially sophisticated about their vote-selling temptation.
Gangs govern millions worldwide. Why rule? And how do they respond to states? Many argue that criminal rule provides protection when states do not, and that increasing state services could crowd gangs out. We began by interviewing leaders from 30 criminal groups in Medellín. The conventional view overlooks gangs’ indirect incentives to rule: governing keeps police out and fosters civilian loyalty, protecting other business lines. We present a model of duopolistic competition with returns to loyalty and show under what conditions exogenous changes to state protection cause gangs to change governance levels. We run the first gang-level field experiment, intensifying city governance in select neighborhoods for two years. We see no decrease in gang rule. We also examine a quasi-experiment. New borders in Medellín created discontinuities in access to government services for 30 years. Gangs responded to greater state rule by governing more. We propose alternatives for countering criminal governance.
Encouraging citizens to apply pressure on underperforming service providers has emerged in recent years as a prominent response to the failure of states to provide needed services. We outline three theoretical mechanisms through which bottom-up citizen-oriented pressure campaigns may affect development outcomes and investigate them via a large-scale field experiment in the Ugandan health sector. While we find modest positive impacts on treatment quality and patient satisfaction, we find no effects on utilization rates, child mortality, or other health outcomes. We also find no evidence that citizens increased their monitoring or sanctioning of health workers. Our findings, therefore, cast doubt on the power of outside actors to generate bottom-up pressure by citizens or improvements in development outcomes. Held up against the findings of other, similar studies, our results point to the salience of mechanisms other than citizen pressure for improvements in service delivery, and to the importance of baseline health conditions for the success of bottom-up, citizen-oriented pressure campaigns. Such conditions shape outcomes both across countries and within countries over time, with the latter finding holding important implications for countries undergoing rapid socioeconomic change.
En muchas ciudades del mundo, los grupos de crimen organizado representan una amenaza creciente para la paz y el desarrollo. Con el objetivo de comprender el funcionamiento de los grupos de crimen organizado de Medellín y evaluar intervenciones de política pública dirigidas a reducir el gobierno criminal ejercido por ellos, los investigadores realizaron diversas entrevistas, una encuesta y dos evaluaciones de impacto. Este documento resume los principales hallazgos.
In Sierra Leone, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and generating evidence to reduce poverty and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Examples of our key research findings are outlined in this brief.
Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh has received multiple waves of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar since the 1970s, but late 2017 saw the largest and fastest refugee influx in Bangladesh’s history. Between August 2017 and December 2018, 745,000 Rohingya refugees fled Myanmar into Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, following an outbreak of violence in Rakhine State. As of December 31, 2019, Teknaf and Ukhia sub-districts host an estimated 854,704 stateless Rohingya refugees, almost all of whom live in densely populated camps (UNHCR 2019).
Researchers from Yale University, the World Bank, and the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) initiative started the Cox’s Bazar Panel Survey (CBPS) in order to provide accurate data to humanitarian and government stakeholders involved in the response to the influx of refugees. The survey is an in-depth household survey covering 5,020 households living in both refugee camps and host communities. This quantitative data collection is complemented with qualitative interviews with adolescents and their caregivers.
In line with the 2018 Global Compact for Refugees commitment to promote economic opportunities, decent work, and skills training for both host community members and refugees, this brief presents a set of stylized facts on the socioeconomic status of Rohingya refugees in 2019 and in the year preceding the latest outbreak of violence.
The aim is to better understand the ways in which the challenges faced by Rohingya refugees while they were living in Myanmar are likely to affect their ability—and the ability of future generations of Rohingya—to attain a better living standard in their host communities, with a view to informing policy and programming.
Drawing from a survey on retrospective employment and labor income from the first round of panel data in 2019, we compare three groups: the population of Myanmar, Rohingya people who crossed the border into Bangladesh in 2017, and those who left Myanmar prior to 2017 and are currently living in Cox’s Bazar.
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.
This brief draws on mixed-methods data collected in 2019 as part of the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) programme—a unique longitudinal mixed-methods research and impact evaluation study that is focusing on what works to support the development of adolescents’ capabilities during the second decade of life (10–19 years) (GAGE consortium, 2019 forthcoming). In Cox’s Bazar, GAGE partnered with researchers from Yale University and the World Bank to implement the Cox’s Bazar Panel Survey (CBPS) in order to provide accurate data to humanitarian and government stakeholders involved in the response to the influx of refugees.
Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) invita a organizaciones y asociaciones civiles que trabajen con individuos en situación de riesgo expuestos a la violencia a participar en la convocatoria para participar en el proyecto “Construyendo Policías Eficaces, Resilientes y Confiables en México”.
El proyecto “Construyendo Policías Eficaces, Resilientes y Confiables en México” de la Universidad de Yale liderado por el Dr. Rodrigo Canales, tiene por objetivo diseñar y evaluar cómo las fuerzas policiales pueden enfrentar el reto de reducir la violencia, aumentar la legitimidad institucional y confianza en las instituciones, y fortalecer el estado de derecho.
En el marco del proyecto, se realizará una intervención comunitaria en conjunto con la Secretaría de Seguridad Ciudadana de la Ciudad de México. Esta intervención busca atender dinámicas de violencia grupal en territorios específicos para cambiar el comportamiento de individuos en situación de riesgo de ejercer violencia o ser víctima. Una parte fundamental de la estrategia se basa en el trabajo comunitario con las personas previamente identificadas por IPA como personas que se encuentran en mayor riesgo de cometer un acto de violencia o ser víctima.
La intervención se realizará de noviembre de 2019 a mayo de 2020 (con posibilidad de extensión) en aproximadamente 47 colonias en una zona vulnerable al poniente de la Ciudad de México y el número de individuos a intervenir oscila entre las 30 y 40 personas.
Las fuerzas policiales urbanas tienden a enfocar sus esfuerzos en las áreas con tasas de crimen más altas. Sin embargo, incrementar la presencia estatal en los sitios más inseguros puede simplemente desplazar el crimen a otras áreas, dejando las tasas de crimen agregadas iguales a como estaban en un principio. En Bogotá, Colombia, un grupo de investigadores, en alianza con la Alcaldía de la ciudad, decidieron medir el impacto de tres estrategias sobre la reducción del crimen y su desplazamiento: focalizar la vigilancia policial, hacer mejoras al espacio público y una combinación de ambas estrategias. La evaluación encontró que estas estrategias reducen el crimen en las calles focalizadas en el estudio, pero solo cuando son implementadas al mismo tiempo. Mientras la mayoría de los crímenes, particularmente los delitos contra la propiedad parecen desplazarse a las calles aledañas. Hay evidencia que sugiere que los crímenes violentos, especialmente los homicidios y el abuso sexual, disminuyen en toda la ciudad como resultado de la intervención.
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 600 leading academics to conduct over 830 evaluations in 52 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.